Ribollita Soup

Ribollita Lunch

We are a soup-loving household. I grew up on homemade chicken noodle soup; Suraj on dal and sambar. The roots run deep.

Soup ticks all our boxes. Can it be made in advance?—check. Is it a one pot meal?—check. Does it contain vegetables?—check. Does it contain protein?—check. Can it be eaten with bread?—check check check (okay, this last one may just be me…).

Ribollita is one of our very favorite soups and on an almost weekly rotation here. It’s Italian—Tuscan, to be precise—and features veggies, beans, and bread, which in my mind, is the ultimate trifecta. We add sausage as well (mostly to satisfy Suraj’s usual “Where’s the meat?” question), but seeing as it’s a soup with peasant origins, this can easily be skipped should you so choose. I’ve made both versions, and neither lasted long.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the leftovers here are actually better than the first serving, which makes the next day’s lunch something to really look forward to. I have one last bowl left for tomorrow, expertly hidden in the back corner of the fridge. Territorial? Maybe. Smart? Hell yes.

Ribollita Bowl

Pre-crouton dousing.


Ribollita
Quite a few ingredients here can be substituted as you like. You can use either hot, mild, or sweet Italian sausage, or skip entirely if you’re vegetarian, and just start with sauteing the vegetables in a little olive oil, and then using vegetable stock later. You could use celery instead of kale stalks (as is traditional—I just didn’t have any and didn’t want to waste the stalks). And/or you can skip the white wine and use more broth instead (though most of it cooks off anyway—and it imparts a perfect tang, in my opinion). You can also add in any other veggies you like, such as diced zucchini or cubed potato (which is especially good if you’re doing a vegetarian version). Play around! It’s only soup! // Adapted from Bon Appetit. // Serves 6 to 8.

2 cups coarsely torn day-old hearty bread, such as sourdough*
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
1 pound Italian sausage (we like hot), casings removed
1 cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 medium carrots, finely chopped
5 to 6 kale stems, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch Tuscan kale, stems/ribs removed, leaves torn into small pieces
1 can diced tomatoes
2 cups cooked white beans (I used some from my freezer, which I had previously soaked and cooked; you can use canned if that’s what you have)
8 cups chicken broth (I used homemade)
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan, shaved or grated, for serving

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toss bread cubes and olive oil on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast, tossing occasionally, until golden brown and crunchy, about 15 minutes. Let croutons cool.

Using your hands, mix sausage and wine in a medium bowl until smooth. Transfer to a large soup pot set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until firm but not browned, about 4 minutes.

Add onion, carrots, kale stems, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender but still hold their shape, 20 to 25 minutes. Add kale leaves, tomatoes, beans, and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until flavors have melded, about 1 hour. Add kosher salt and pepper to taste.

Divide soup among bowls and top with croutons and a grating of Parmesan.

*Ribollita is the landing place of all the little knobs and crusts of sourdough that don’t make the toast cut but that I can’t bear to throw away either.  I save them up in my freezer, and when my bag is full, the soup pot immediately gets turned on. That said, any type of hearty bread will work just fine. We recently used some garlic Tuscan from Wegman’s (!) and it was perfection.


Homemade Breakfast Cereal

Cereal Bowl Final

I went home to upstate New York last week for Easter. It’s about an eight-hour drive from New Hampshire if I only stop once for gas, and every hour that passes feels like five. Flying there is much faster, of course, but this time around I had five GALLONS of olive oil in my trunk to deliver to family members (we did a bulk buy, as I mentioned here). I kept imagining the scenario in which I would be pulled over and would have to explain what, exactly, I was doing with a car full of olive oil, but gladly that never happened.

Going home was nice. My mom and most of my siblings still live in the area, so it’s always busy/lively when I go back. I’m still getting used to the idea of my Dad not being there though. It’s been six months since he (unexpectedly) passed away, and I still have a hard time believing he’s not just going to walk back in the door or come sit down at the table with us. I want to talk about him, but most times I can’t do so without a huge lump jumping into my throat and my eyes welling up. In time.

…so back to Easter. There was a lot of food—as always. With nearly everyone in my family being food-obsessed (my brother is a chef and the rest of us are just avid cooks/bakers), there’s always a full spread. Ham, Polish sausage, scalloped potatoes, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, you name it. I decided to add a panzanella bread salad to the mix (loosely based off this recipe, with a lot of garlic and feta added in), using a loaf of homemade sourdough I had brought with me. It was excellent and we ate the leftovers for days. I made a cake for dessert too, following Dorie Greenspan’s celebration cake recipe (a favorite), and filling it with fresh orange curd made from my sister’s abundant CSA citrus share. It was all so good.

Aside from the things we made while I was there, I brought along several jars of my homemade cereal. I’ve been making it for years now, and everyone likes it so much that I literally give it to my mom as a Christmas present.

Why do I make my own cereal? Well, you can probably guess—most cereals on the store shelf, even the “healthy ones,” are filled with unpronounceable things you probably want to avoid. Here’s what my homemade version contains: spelt flour, almond meal, kefir, coconut oil, maple syrup, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, vanilla and maple extracts. All healthy, recognizable ingredients, right? Plus, it’s easy to make and yields a huge batch. Stored in the freezer, it lasts months.

As for the taste, think nutty granola meets muesli (or Great Grains meets Oatmeal Crisp if you want a brand-name comparison). Crunchy and slightly sweet upon first bite, then softening like porridge or oats as it absorbs the milk (I like it best this way). It’s the only breakfast cereal I’ll ever need. And, coincidentally, my best Christmas gift.

[Hover over photos for captions.]


Homemade Breakfast Cereal
Start this recipe the night before you want to make it; I usually start it on a Friday night and finish it on Saturday. The process is this: Soak your ingredients the night before (I talk about the importance of soaking grains/flours in this post), bake it into a cake the next day, then crumble and dry the cake pieces out. Voilà, cereal! It’s really a simple and fun process. Recipe adapted from here. | Yield: About 14 cups.

To soak the night or day before:
4 1/2 cups spelt flour (or regular whole wheat)
1 1/2 cups finely ground almonds/almond meal/almond flour
3 cups plain kefir, buttermilk, or yogurt (thinned with water)

To mix in after soaking:
3/4 cup melted coconut oil
1 cup maple syrup or honey (or 1/2 cup each, or 1/2 cup maple syrup and 10-15 drops liquid stevia)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon maple flavoring, optional

To serve:
Dried fruit and chopped nuts (I like chopped dried plums, dried cherries, walnuts, and toasted hazelnuts; pictured is just sliced almonds as it was for my mom)

The night or day before you want to bake the cereal: Mix flour, ground almonds, and soaking medium of choice in a large glass bowl. Mix just until no dry flour remains, but don’t overdo it—you want to keep it loose so it’s easy to combine with the other ingredients the next day. Cover with a loose lid and leave on the counter for 12 to 24 hours. (Mine bubbles up quite a bit and grows in size because my kefir is so active; see first photo in series above.)

The next day: Once soaking is complete, preheat oven to 350º F (175º C). Lightly grease two 9×13-inch pans or one large 11×17-inch pan, which is what I used.

In a mixer, combine the second group of ingredients, then add the soaked flour mixture a cup or so at a time, beating until fully blended. I work slowly here, so it all incorporates well.

Pour batter into pans and bake for about 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake is lightly golden in color.

Let cool then crumble the cake into small pieces, about the size of marbles or a little larger. Spread on cookie sheets if drying in the oven, or dehydrator sheets if using a dehydrator (I’ve used both with success). In oven, dry at 200º F (95º C) for at least 4 to 5 hours, rotating sheets and turning cereal every hour or so. The cereal is done when the pieces feel completely dry (like granola), with no moisture remaining. In dehydrator, dry at around 135º F (60º C) overnight.

Once cool, add in any dried fruit or chopped nuts you like. Store in the freezer if not using immediately.

Eat with either warm or cold milk (dairy, almond, or otherwise), with blueberries or sliced bananas if you have them. [Note that I usually have about 1/2 cup or less of the cereal itself, as it’s super filling!]


Cereal with milk

Cucumber Roti (Flatbread)

Cucumber Roti

Breakfast is easily my favorite meal of the day. (You’ll be seeing a lot of it on this blog, I assure you.)

It’s also one my favorite parts of the weekend. I love the gentle pace that comes along with it, the rituals behind it (for us: tea, then more tea), and the stretch of the day ahead. It’s comforting. It’s warm. It’s that place where you want to sit and stay awhile.

Aside from eggs in all forms (omelet for Suraj, scrambled for me), we gravitate toward Indian breakfast items. Dosa/iddly, poha, and savory pancakes like moong dal cheela and cucumber roti (recipe below) are our top picks. I think if I ever actually wrote a cookbook myself (aside from just hiring people to do it), it would be on Indian breakfasts. There is just SO much to love when it comes to this cuisine, this meal. Wholesome ingredients, a light touch of spice, veg-centric, filling-but-not-coma-inducing (and often fermented, like dosa)—addicting, in a word. My “to blog” list includes dozens of these recipes, and I hope to one day share them all here (check out my Instagram in the meantime for photos of most of them, and proof that I am in fact obsessed).

Our weekend breakfasts all take more time to prepare than pouring a bowl of cereal, but that’s what I like about them. I like listening to Sunday Morning while pulling things together, and having Suraj come join me to finish the tea while I take things off the stove, or cut up some fruit. When we sit down together, we’re both relaxed, but hungry, and can look forward to a warm meal in front of us, and the day ahead.

In the case of this cucumber roti, or flatbread, it’s one I posted about to friends on Facebook a few weeks ago, when I was once again waxing poetic about this very subject (I’m fast becoming a broken record, aren’t I?). A few people asked for the recipe, which I’m more than happy to share here. It’s rather easy to prepare, gluten-free by nature, and full of flavors that work beautifully together (cucumber, coconut, rice, cilantro). The cucumber and coconut help keep the interior soft and subtly sweet, while the outside crisps up in beautiful contrast—it’s a savory pancake/flatbread like no other. I hope it finds its way into one of your weekend mornings.

Cucumber Roti 2


Cucumber Roti (Flatbread)
This savory flatbread is made simply from grated cucumber mixed with rice flour, coconut, and a few spices/herbs (cumin, cilantro, chili). There is no water or other liquid added; the cucumber itself hydrates the dough. It is light on the stomach, yet filling at the same time. You can find grated, frozen coconut at any Indian grocery store. It’s pretty cheap, requires no prep, and tastes amazing; I just defrost it in the microwave for about 45 seconds. If you can’t find it, you can use unsweetened, dried, shredded coconut—just soak it in 1/2 cup of hot water for 20 minutes or so, then add it to the dough along with the soaking water (I haven’t tried this personally, so you may need to play with the water ratio).

2 cups rice flour (I use white rice flour, as it’s easier to digest than brown)
1 english cucumber, peeled and grated
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh coconut
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (the salt helps draw out the moisture)
4 green chillies, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Coconut oil, ghee, or other cooking oil
Butter, for serving

Combine all the ingredients (except for the oil and butter) in large bowl. Don’t add any water, just start kneading it all together with your hands. As you work, the moisture from the cucumber will start releasing and hydrate the flour. After a few minutes, it should start coming together into a ball and feel like play dough. If it still feels too crumbly, add a couple of drops of water and keep kneading (I’ve never had to do this, but if you had a small cucumber, maybe you’ll need to).

Divide the dough into equal portions, making each one about the size of an orange. Working with one piece at a time, place on top of a sheet of waxed paper and press down with your fingers to flatten to about 1/4 inch thickness. You may need to wet your hands with a little water if they’re sticking. Conversely, you can lay a second piece of waxed paper on top of the dough (flattening slightly) and gently roll it out with a rolling pin (or use a tortilla press).

Heat a cast iron pan or skillet with a few teaspoons of coconut oil or ghee over medium heat. It’s hot enough when a drop of water sizzles. Gently transfer the roti to the skillet; I do this by taking off the top sheet of waxed paper (if using), then picking up the whole thing by the bottom piece of waxed paper and flipping it over onto the skillet, so the waxed paper sheet is now on top—I then quickly and gently peel off the top paper.

Cook for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until lightly browned in spots. Remove and serve hot with butter and a sprinkle of salt. We like to have ours with hard-boiled eggs, avocado, Greek yogurt, Indian pickle, and chutney.

If you have any leftovers, just keep them in the fridge and reheat in the toaster. They make a great weekday breakfast this way!

Stollen Bread

Stollen Toast 3

Back when I wrote about sourdough, I mentioned that I had a fruit & nut bread, also known as stollen, on my baking to-do list.

It’s since been baked. And I’m already down to my last few slices. It’s a never-ending cycle.

Stollen is one of my favorite breads of all time. I used to just make it for holiday gift-giving, but it’s now become a year-round staple. Soft and lightly sweet, it’s a yeast bread filled with dried fruit and nuts and a log of almond paste. When you cut the loaf, each slice yields a coin-sized amount of the paste, which you pop out and spread on top along with some butter and a little jam, if you like. Please tell me you’re sold. Whoever invented this deserves a medal.

I’d love to make a naturally leavened (aka sourdough) version of this bread one day, but for now, I’m fine sticking with the yeast version. It’s a nice change of pace from our more hearty loaves, and everyone loves it. When I go home to upstate New York to see my family, I can’t show up without a loaf or two (which my sister and I then hide and only have once her kids have already eaten so they won’t ask us for any. Sharing: 0, Us: 2).

If you’ve never made bread before or are “afraid of yeast,” as I hear people say, this is a great first recipe to try (especially for Easter!). Yes, it has a few ingredients, but the directions are very step-by-step and hard to mess up. In fact, this was one of the first breads I ever baked, and I’m still convinced that my very first loaf was actually better than any I’ve made since. If you’re going to capitalize on beginner’s luck, this is the loaf to use it on!

Stollen Loaf 2


Stollen
Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour and the Food Network. If you don’t like nuts, you can leave them out, though I’d argue to give it a try as is first, as all the elements together really make it phenomenal. The original recipe uses candied fruit, but I can’t stand the stuff (it’s filled with dyes and additives), so I stick with dried fruit and just soak it first to make it soft. As for the almond paste, I’ve used both store-bought and made my own (using this recipe); both are great. You could use marzipan too, I would think, but it’s less almond-y and even more sweet than regular almond paste, so the outcome might be a little different. // Finally, note that this recipe take a couple hours from start to finish, though most of it is hands-off. Devote a Sunday afternoon to it, and you can look forward to a week of great toast!
Yield: two medium-sized loaves

For the dried fruit:
1 cup dried fruit, diced (l like to use a mix of dried cherries, golden raisins, dates, and figs)
1/4 cup rum or orange juice

For the sponge: 
1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
2/3 cup milk (I use whole)
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

For the dough:
1/3 cup honey
1 large egg, beaten
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon or orange zest
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup toasted and chopped nuts (I like to use a mix of walnuts, almonds, pecans, and pistachios)
3 to 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Oil, for coating bowl

For the filling: 
7 ounces almond paste (I like Odense brand, which comes in a tube), divided into two pieces

To prepare the dried fruit: Combine the dried fruit and rum or orange juice. Cover and set aside. Shake or stir the mixture every so often to coat the fruit with the liquid. I like to leave it overnight so my fruit is really soft, but a half-hour or so is fine too.

To prepare the “sponge”: In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, sprinkle the yeast in the water to soften. Heat the milk to 110 degrees F (just warm to the touch, not any hotter) and add it to the yeast along with the honey and 1 cup flour. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until light and full of bubbles, about 30 minutes. This is your sponge.

If preparing the dough by hand: Strain the dried fruit mixture, discarding the liquid. To the bowl with the sponge, add the dried fruit, honey, egg, melted butter, zest, salt, nutmeg, nuts, and 2 cups of the flour. Stir vigorously for 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining 1 to 2 cups flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl; I usually end up adding about 1 1/2 cups total. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead, adding a little flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 6 to 7 minutes. The dough should be smooth and supple—not dry or crumbly, but not sticking to your hands either.

If preparing the dough in a stand mixer: Strain the dried fruit mixture, discarding the liquid. To the mixer bowl with the sponge, add the dried fruit, honey, egg, melted butter, zest, salt, nutmeg, nuts, and 2 cups of the flour. Using the paddle, beat the mixture on medium low speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl. Change to the dough hook. Continue to add flour 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough just begins to clean the bowl and feels supple, but not sticky or dry. Knead 4 to 5 minutes on medium-low.

First rise: Put the dough in a large, oiled bowl and turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a towel or lid and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. You’ll know the dough is ready when you press it gently with your finger and it takes more than a minute for the indentation to fill back out again.

To shape and fill: Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, gently roll/press the dough into a 7 by 9-inch oval. Roll half of the almond paste into a log that is just a little less than the length of the dough (about 8 inches) and lay it on top of the dough, close to the center. Carefully roll the dough up into a loaf, pinching the ends together as you roll, so that the log of almond paste stays in the center and doesn’t stick out. Place the loaves on a parchment-lined or well-greased baking sheet, seam-side down, and cover with a lightly greased piece of plastic wrap (I cover mine with the top lid of a cardboard box, so it doesn’t touch the loaves but does keep away any drafts that would keep it from rising properly). Let rise for at 45 minutes, or until just about doubled and nicely puffy.

About 20 minutes before the loaves are ready, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Bake the loaves (on the middle rack) for 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190 degrees. If the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, it’s done.

While the loaves are still warm, brush the outside with butter (this helps keep the crust soft). Place on a rack to cool completely before slicing.

Eat within 2 to 3 days, or slice and freeze. You can toast the slices directly from the freezer, no need to defrost. I like mine with butter and tart cherry jam.


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The first loaf of stollen I ever made. Had to dig up the photographic evidence to prove it. Been a winner since 2011.

Eating Habits, Part I

Home

I grew up in an old farm house (that’s it up there), the fourth of five siblings. While most of the house’s farmland was sold off well before my parents ever moved in, my Dad, a carpenter by trade, built a small silo on part of the remaining land. The “playhouse,” as we called it, had two levels, separated by a small wooden staircase. The first floor housed our bikes, yard tools, a wheelbarrow, and a balance beam, if I remember correctly (between this, the two trapezes, and the set of high rings my Dad made for us, it’s really a shame none of us ever joined the circus…).

The second floor of the playhouse was mine and mine alone. Unlike our shared bedroom, this illustrious space (which had one single skylight for light and was probably 12 feet in diameter), was just for me. It was my sanctuary, and, in turn, where my imagination felt the most free.

In my house, I created bunk beds from benches in the yard; a “fireplace” from leftover bricks; and a little kitchen compiled from old dishes my mom would let me pick out from her friend’s antique shop. To “cook,” I’d pick berries (inedible ones, always much to my disappointment), and mash them up to make “pies.”

The playhouse isn’t there anymore, but I still feel like it is. (I still feel this way about my Dad, too. Both are so clear, and so loved, in my mind.)

I’ve been thinking of that beloved space a lot lately, because in a way, I think this little blog has begun to serve a similar purpose. This is a place where I come to play around. To use my mind. To talk about nourishment, and to be nourished. It is my flow. And I love that.

I also love the community that is beginning to grow here. I’ve heard from so many people who are interested in living more wholesomely, or just trying new things, and that is amazing to hear. We’re all after the same goal!

With these comments and emails have also come great questions, many of which, interestingly enough, have revolved around the day-to-day specifics of what, exactly, I eat. What milk do I drink? Why am I eating white rice? (answered here) Do I soak my grains/nuts/beans? Am I a vegetarian? The list goes on.

All of those questions helped inspire this post, which I’ve broken into two parts/posts. First, I’ll go food group by food group, telling you what I eat, what I look for, what I prefer, and so on. In my next post, I’ll share a food journal of exactly what a few days of eating looks like for me—yep, every single meal, snack, drink, dessert, etc. It will be a full tour of the Eat & Edit “playhouse.”

Before I get started though, let me be clear: How we eat is perhaps one of the most personal facets of our lives. We all have to do what’s right for us. What I’ve shared here is not meant to be all-or-nothing plan for others to follow—it’s just what I do personally (and it’s taken me many years to get here)! If you want to pick up one or two of these habits, that’s great! Change doesn’t have to happen overnight.

While I am not a nutritionist (though I’d love to be one someday) and I’m certainly not the fittest/leanest/most-disciplined person out there, I do a TON of food-related research every day (it’s my job after all) and I am keenly aware of what works best for me and makes me feel, well, happy and alive. I’ve been following this “real food” lifestyle for at least 10 years now, and can attest to this:

  • I very rarely, if ever, get sick and cannot even remember the last time I had to go to the doctor for a flu, cold, infection, etc. I take no medications.
  • My cholesterol and blood pressure, both of which were high when I was overweight as a teenager, are great. My BMI is healthy/normal.
  • I have a ton of energy; Suraj will verify that I pretty much never sit down.
  • I sleep well.
  • I’m told (thanks, Mom) that I have good skin and usually get pegged for being younger than I actually am. (I am 32.)
  • I have no allergies/sensitivities (which can result from other body imbalances and are not always “unavoidable”; here’s a link to a study, for instance, about allergies and the gut).

I think a healthy diet plays a role in many of these areas, and more. So let’s get started!
(Hover over the photos for captions.)


My Overall Philosophy
Eat food in its purest form—whole, unadulterated, real. Eat the foods your great-grandmother ate, or would understand. Stay away from packaged products, unless all the ingredients listed are familiar to you and there’s only a few. [Did you know a Nutri-Grain bar contains more than 40 ingredients?] If you can’t decipher the label, don’t buy it!

Eat in moderation and don’t restrict anything. I like to practice the 80/20 rule, focusing on eating my best 80 percent of the time, and being okay with it if 20 percent slides.

A big part of my approach to food has been inspired by the book Nourishing Traditions. I highly recommend it if you’re interested in learning more about sound nutrition.

Fruits & Vegetables 
Eat all the vegetables you can, as many and as much as possible. Fresh produce accounts for the bulk of our shopping budget. We eat vegetables with nearly every meal, and both Suraj and I love them all—okay, with the exception of eggplant. Neither of us can stand that one.

I buy organic for the Dirty Dozen, but don’t have the budget to do it for everything. Last summer we did a CSA too, which was great. Also, if you follow me on Instagram, you know I forage a bit in summer too—there are wild edibles everywhere! You can check with your local parks department to see if they have any walks you can sign up for. I’ve gone on both a general “foraging edibles” walk and one for just mushrooms.

In terms of preparation, we like both raw and cooked (usually, roasted) veggies, and I love fermenting them too—cabbage and carrot being my favorites (I’ll post about this someday soon). I save any veggie scraps—cores, peels, roots, etc.—in a gallon-size bag in my freezer, and when it’s full, I use them to make homemade broth.

Meat & Seafood
I have never been a vegetarian, though a lot of people seem to think I am. Before I moved in with Suraj and lived on my own, though, it wasn’t uncommon for me to go a week or so without eating meat (more so out of laziness than anything else). Now we eat meat or seafood at least once a day. Suraj grew up a vegetarian, but after trying fish, he never looked back. For religious reasons, however, he does not eat beef, so it’s not something I prepare at home.

We always buy our chicken, lamb, and pork organic (they honestly taste 100x better), and try to get it on the bone whenever possible. Bones are nutrient-dense and are essential to making deeply flavorful dishes—curries and stews especially. Once we’re done with the meat, I add the leftover bones to the broth bag (mentioned above), and simmer them all day long for stock.

For seafood, we look for sustainable choices and favor whole fish (again, with bones), as well as shrimp.

Dairy & Eggs
We drink whole, organic milk that is pasteurized but not “ultra-pasteurized,” which means it’s completely dead. While raw milk is available here in New Hampshire, we don’t typically get it. Pasteurized works for us. Whole milk is our preference because all the others are way too processed for my tastes (skim milk often has highly-processed “milk powder” added back into it after processing to make it drinkable). Prior to World War II, Americans didn’t even know what skim or low-fat milk was, so I’m sticking with tradition.

Sidenote: There was a time when I thought almond milk was great, but after looking more closely at the ingredient label, I dropped it completely. Most plant-based milks contain carrageenan, an additive that’s being put in all sorts of foods, and is raising a lot of health concerns (Prevention Magazine). So unless I make almond milk at home—which is super easy—I just stick with dairy milk.

Aside from drinking it plain, I use whole organic milk to make yogurt and kefir, a fermented dairy drink which I’ll post about very soon. If I buy yogurt, my choice is always plain Fage (full fat). It’s ridiculously creamy.

When it comes to cheese, I favor raw-milk, well-aged varieties, my favorite being cheddar. As for eggs, see my post about them here.

Beans & Lentils
We are bean lovers through and through, which is a good thing because so many Indian dishes feature them. That said, we don’t buy canned beans (which are often full of sodium and preservatives) and instead favor dried. I soak dried beans—including chickpeas, white beans, black beans, whole lentils, etc.—overnight in water, stirring in two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. These helps break down the beans and makes them easier to digest.

The next day, I drain and rinse, then cook the beans in fresh water. Soaked beans cook up pretty fast (in my pressure cooker they only take about 10 minutes; on the stove about 30 minutes) and they’re also hugely economical. I keep however much I need for the week in the fridge, and transfer the rest to a gallon-size freezer bag. I freeze the bags flat on a baking sheet, then once frozen, stack up alongside whatever other staples I have in there (broth and grains, usually). When I want to use the beans in a meal, I just chip off a portion and toss them in to the dish (they defrost in minutes).

Grains & Nuts
I love and cook with all sorts of whole grains. My favorites are probably farro and quinoa, because they go well in anything. As for nuts, I don’t discriminate. They’re all wonderful.

I prepare grains and nuts in the same way I prepare beans (see above)—soaking them overnight in an acidic solution to help break down the phytic acid they contain (as I talked about in my Lemon Rice post). For grains, I then rinse and cook, often freezing in the same manner as with beans. Sometimes I sprout my grains before cooking, but that’s a step/method for another day.

After soaking nuts, I drain then dehydrate for 24 hours, until they’re nice and crispy. I use a dehydrator, but if your oven goes down to 150 degrees or less, you could try it in there too. Nuts prepared in this manner are called “activated nuts” and they are SO delicious. They’re also much easier for your body to digest, and you get more nutrition out of them. I eat them plain or toasted with a little maple syrup and butter. I also grind them into nut butter with some coconut oil.

Bread & Baked Goods
Good bread is essential to me. Nine times out of ten, it’s homemade and it’s sourdough. For Indian meals, I make whole-wheat chapati or paratha. Both we keep in the freezer at all times. Once in a while I’m fine with eating a regular, yeasted bread or roll. It’s all about moderation.

I love to bake other things too, and if the occasion calls for it, will use white flour. Most times though, I favor sprouted spelt flour, as in these cookies.

Oils & Fats
That’s all covered for you here!

Fermented Foods
Fermented foods are like magic to me. They keep my stomach happy, my food well digested, and my gut and body healthy. If you are not already eating fermented foods, I really encourage you to add them into your diet. They are a traditional food staple that only seem to have been forgotten about in the last century or so (directly the same time that our population’s health started going downhill…).

I try to eat something fermented with every meal. My favorites are homemade sauerkraut (this recipe is my all-time favorite; I always add it to my salads), kefir, yogurt, sourdough, kombucha, and beet kvass.

Sweeteners & Desserts
When baking, I like to use coconut sugar. For non-cooking applications, it’s usually raw, local honey or maple syrup. For tea, I’ll use a drop of pure stevia extract (in liquid form, which is much more natural than powdered) when I’m at work; at home, we just use a small spoonful of white sugar. 80/20 rule! 

As far as desserts, I fully admit to having a sweet tooth (directly inherited from my dad). A very small scoop of homemade (or Haagen-Dazs) ice cream or a piece of dark Lindt chocolate after dinner is our usual.

Why Haagen-Dazs? Check out the ingredient label—only real ingredients! Here’s their vanilla ice cream label: cream, skim milk, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla extract. (In this case, I’m fine letting the skim milk slide.) No other ice cream on the market keeps it as plain and simple as they do.

Beverages
I drink water throughout the day, and with meals. Other daily drinks include tea, milk, plain seltzer, and kombucha. I brew kombucha myself, and was able to quit soda nearly completely after starting that (I will still occasionally have a small glass of Coke with pizza, but that’s only every few months).

I like to have a glass of red wine (Cabernet) in the evenings, or a VERY watered down Scotch and seltzer. (I got Suraj to like salad, he got me to like Scotch.)

Supplements
I’m not really a vitamin and supplements kind of girl, but I do take a probiotic pill on occasion (such as after recently having to go on antibiotics after being bit by Lyme-positive tick—joys of New England living!), and fermented cod liver oil when I remember it (I like Green Pastures brand, in cinnamon liquid flavor). Everything else I think our bodies can get from food.

Foods I Strongly Dislike (that may or may not surprise you): Shredded or crumbled cheese—the convenience factor here means preservatives and funky junk are added to keep it fresh; you’re better off just grating that mozz yourself // Granola—I don’t really consider this a health food, since it’s super high in calories and filled with sugar, and I find unsoaked/raw oats very hard to digest // Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches—I know it stinks to hear this, but if your bread, pb, and jelly are all store-bought, this is basically a dessert (here’s a visual; scroll to the bottom) // Microwave popcorn—it takes 2 minutes to make your own! and you can put REAL butter or ghee on it! // Flavored yogurt and frozen yogurt (Ron Swanson, you are my hero) // Boxed cereal—even the “healthy” stuff (again, just read the label) // Okay, I’ll stop here…

Exercise & Fitness
I try to work out several times a week, whether that is outside walking/running/biking, at the gym, or at the pool in our apartment complex. I work out because it settles me and helps me focus my energies, and because it just makes me feel good (and hungry!). That said, I’m not a fitness junkie and I don’t think I’ll ever be the type to run miles everyday or compete in any type of competition. While I’d love tighter abs (and leaner legs, while we’re at it…), I’m happy with just flushed cheeks and calm psyche too.

Whew, okay! Anybody still awake out there?! Until next week!

Roasted Cabbage

Roasted Cabbage Close-up

When I posted a shot of this roasted cabbage on Instagram a few weeks back, it quickly became one of my most liked photos.

Why? I would guess that it’s because people gravitate toward things that are both simple and beautiful—in life, in others, and especially in food. I love that. I get that.

We started roasting cabbage like this last summer, back when our CSA haul featured cabbage almost weekly. Months later, we’re still eating it this way, usually as part of a quick weeknight meal along with some sausage and white beans in olive oil (recipe coming soon). Leftovers always go into my lunches along with some feta or goat cheese.

Roasting vegetables is one of my favorite cooking methods. The process is simple yet it results in such full flavors and textures that you really can’t help but love the end result. I understand people not liking steamed vegetables. But roasted ones? Come on. They’re dreamy.

In the case of cabbage, roasting the rounds whole creates an end result so tender that you can even eat the core. The inner ribbons turn silky soft, while the very outer edges char slightly and taste similar to a kale chip, only a million times better. If you never thought cabbage could be addicting, try this and get back to me.

Roasted Cabbage Before Roasted Cabbage After


Roasted Cabbage
Use the biggest, sharpest knife you have for cutting the cabbage and be very careful, as the whole thing can take a little work to cut through. The garlic is optional. You can also sprinkle any dried herbs you like on top, such as oregano, thyme, or whatever goes best with the rest of your meal. I just kept mine simple here.

One whole cabbage, red or green
Olive oil, for brushing
Salt and pepper
Garlic cloves, whole (unpeeled or peeled—unpeeled is probably better to avoid burning)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Place the cabbage upright on a cutting board, core/stem side on the bottom. Slice straight down into one-inch thick rounds, or as close to that as you can get. It doesn’t need to perfect.

Place rounds on a baking sheet. Brush both sides with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt (I use kosher) and pepper. I find cabbage needs quite a bit of salt, so don’t be shy. Place a few garlic cloves on the sheet along with the cabbage, brushing with a little olive oil as well.

Roast for about 30 minutes, until the tip of a knife slips easily through the core. Smash the roasted garlic cloves into the cabbage and serve.

Lemon Rice

Lemon Rice 2

A few weeks ago, one of my closest friends came over for an Indian cooking lesson. We made two things: coconut chutney and this lemon rice. There were very few leftovers.

Lemon rice is a simple, home-style, spiced rice dish. It isn’t often found on Indian restaurant menus, but it is a very typical offering at Hindu temples, where food is offered (for free) following most ceremonies. Because it contains no onion or garlic, which are not permitted inside temples, and can easily be made on a large scale (they serve it from enormous steel bowls), it’s a common feature there.

I was hooked the first time I tried it—slightly citrusy, with bursts of flavor and spice from the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and peanuts. It’s a dish that goes well with just about any meal. We sometimes have it as a snack too, alongside strong, Indian-style tea.

White basmati is the preferred rice for this dish, as it is for most Indian meals. It has a wonderfully aromatic flavor, takes 10 minutes to cook, is light on the stomach, and is perfectly suited to both Indian and non-Indian meals alike. While I do like brown rice once in awhile, I do not eat it on a regular basis. For one, it contains higher levels of arsenic than white rice (Consumer Reports), and it is also high in phytic acid.

What is phytic acid? It’s an anti-nutrient found in the outer bran of brown rice that prevents us from absorbing many of the nutrients found within (white rice has its outer bran removed so while it is slightly more refined, it’s easier to digest). Unless brown rice is soaked or sprouted before cooking, which breaks down that pesky phytic acid barrier, your body can’t get much out of it. Kind of like eating a locked treasure chest full of healthy food, instead of opening it and eating the food itself. So if you’re not going to soak or sprout your brown rice, just go for white and don’t worry about it.


Lemon Rice
If you’ve never had Indian mustard seeds before, I really encourage you to buy a pack and give them a try—they are tiny and black and pop like popcorn when you put them in hot oil. They have a complex, addicting flavor; not so much mustardy as deeply nutty and a little pungent (they are not hot/spicy). Fresh curry leaves can be found at any Indian grocery store. Finally, note that the vibrant color of this dish comes more from the turmeric powder used than the lemon juice.

2 to 4 tablespoons oil or ghee (I use a combination of almond oil and ghee)
1/4 cup raw peanuts or cashews
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
5 to 6 fresh curry leaves
1 to 2 Indian green chilies, finely chopped (skip if you are spice-adverse)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 to 3 cups cooked basmati rice (leftover, cold rice is best)
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt, to taste
Fresh cilantro, for serving

Heat 1 tablespoon of your oil/ghee in a large pan with lid. Once hot, add nuts, lower heat and fry until lightly golden. Remove from oil and set aside.

Add remaining oil and heat until very hot (this is essential for getting the mustard seeds to pop—do not use regular butter or an oil like olive oil for this, as it will burn before it gets hot enough). Add the mustard seeds and immediately cover with the lid. The seeds should immediately start popping and spluttering wildly, just like popcorn. Let them do their thing for a minute or so, until the popping dies down, then lower heat to medium. You don’t want it as hot when you add the next ingredients, or they will burn.

Add the cumin seeds, curry leaves, and green chili and fry for another minute. The cumin seeds and curry leaves will turn a deeper brown—again, just be careful not to let them burn. Add the turmeric powder and allow it to dissolve into the oil.

Add cooked rice and stir to combine. The rice will absorb the tumeric-tinged oil and begin turning a lovely shade of yellow. You can add a pinch more turmeric if you don’t think yours is yellow enough, though give it a few minutes first, as it sometimes take a little time for the full color to come out. If your rice begins sticking to the bottom of the pot, add a bit more oil (or a little water) and lower the heat.

Cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until the rice is hot and the flavors are well absorbed. Add lemon juice, mixing well, then sugar and salt to taste.

Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve warm.


This masala dabba, or spice box, contains our most-utilized Indian spices. Turmeric is front and center, followed by (clockwise): red chili powder, black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urad dal (a split lentil used in seasonings), cumin powder, and coriander powder. It comes with a glass cover and lid and makes Indian cooking a breeze.

This masala dabba, or spice box, contains our most-utilized Indian spices. Turmeric is front and center, followed by (clockwise, from top left): red chili powder, black mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urad dal (a split lentil used in seasonings), cumin powder, and coriander powder. The dabba comes with a glass cover and lid and makes Indian cooking a breeze as you can access your spices in one go. They’re available online, and at many Indian grocers.