Thursday, July 21, 2011

White Bean, Artichoke and Chard Ragout with Fennel Relish

I know this dish might sound complicated, but when you realize that the crock pot does most of the cooking for you, it suddenly doesn't seem daunting at all.

I was a little worried that Abe wouldn't like this at all.  I mean, it's got fennel in it.  Not the go-to veggie for a lot of people.  But I had ordered a box of organic fruits and vegetables delivered to my house from and needed to use the fennel I found inside.  I pretty much hate anything licorice tasting, but for some reason, like it when it's in a savory dish.  So, off I went to find a suitable recipe. 

And surprise!  Abe really enjoyed it.  I think he actually enjoyed it a bit more than I did!   See, things can still surprise you in a marriage even after several years.  Abe did comment that he did like it with a lot more lemon juice than the recipe called for, so I added that, and a few other modifications, to the recipe.  I'm going to write it where you add additional lemon juice to the final product, to taste.  Some of you might not be as big of sour pusses like we are!

Just in case you are wondering what the heck a ragout is (and I did too, so don't worry), it's a French term for main course stew.  There you go, just a fancy term for stew.  Impress your friends next time at dinner when you tell them you're making them a ragout (pronounced ragu).

Don't be tempted to skip the fennel relish.  It makes the dish.  Even Abe, who I suspect doesn't like fennel, said so.  He told me to make double the amount next time.  Look who likes fennel after all!

Oh, and I took the picture before I remembered to add the chard.  Oops!  So, yours will look a little bit different.

Base recipe was found at

White Bean, Artichoke and Chard Ragout with Fennel Relish
Serves 6


1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups thinly sliced leek (about 2 large)
1 cup (1/2-inch-thick) slices carrot
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups cooked cannellini or Great Northern beans
2 1/2 cups chopped fennel bulb (about 1 large)
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed red potatoes
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano, drained
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 (14-ounce) can vegetable broth
1 (9-ounce) package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
2 cups chopped Swiss chard


1 cup boiling water
6 sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil (or homemade, recipe below)
3 cups shredded fennel bulb (about 1 large)
1 cup diced yellow bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Lemon wedges for serving 

To prepare ragout, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add leek, carrot, and garlic; cover and cook 5 minutes or until tender.

Place leek mixture in a 5-quart electric slow cooker. Add beans and next 13 ingredients (through artichokes). Cover and cook on high 8 low (or 4 hours high) or until vegetables are tender. Add chard; stir until chard wilts.

To prepare relish, combine boiling water and sun-dried tomatoes; let stand 15 minutes or until soft. Drain; chop. Combine sun-dried tomatoes and remaining ingredients; let stand 30 minutes.

Ladle ragout into a shallow bowl, add relish on top and squeeze lemon wedge to taste.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Couscous with Chickpeas and Onion-Pinenut Topping (Al Cuscus bil Khodar al-mausim)

Picture courtesy of Cooking Light

Trying to cut down on the amount of meat I had to buy this week, I decided we were going to have 2, count them, 2 meatless nights.  Good news for me since I will actually get to eat dinner.  Thankfully, my darling husband never complains about eating veggie.  This one is so hardy that I don't think he will be sneaking off for a bowl of cereal an hour after dinner like he does on most vegetarian nights.

 I know it seems like a lot of steps and ingredients, but it comes together quickly.  While the veggies are roasting, you can get the couscous and topping ready, so once the timer goes off, bam! There's dinner.  It's nice enough for serving to company, but easy enough to make for a casual night at home.

The original recipe called for sweet potatoes, but we aren't a sweet potato kind of family, so I replaced it with butternut squash.  Feel free to do one or the other (or both!).

The spice mix adds a wonderful ethnic flavor and warmth.  It is a great one to have on hand for those times you want a little spice for veggies or rice.  It will keep for 1 month in an airtight container.  I double the spice in the couscous recipe, so if you're one to worry about spice, add 1/2 of it and sprinkle some on the dish later if you feel it needs it.  I think most will enjoy the amount I used.

I got this recipe from

Roasted Vegetable Couscous with Chickpeas and Onion-Pinenut Topping

5 cups diced peeled butternut squash or sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds) 
2 cups (1/2-inch) diced peeled parsnips (about 10 ounces)
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoon Ras el Hanout (recipe to follow)
3 carrots, peeled and cut crosswise into 2-inch pieces (about 9 ounces)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup uncooked couscous
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, separated into rings
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup raisins
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon honey

1. Preheat oven to 450°.

2. To prepare couscous, combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place potato mixture on a baking sheet. Bake at 450° for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.

3. Bring broth to a boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in couscous and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork; gently stir in chickpeas. Keep warm.

4. To prepare topping, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 12 minutes or until tender and golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add pine nuts and raisins; cook 2 minutes. Stir in cinnamon; cook 30 seconds. Stir in honey, and remove from heat.

5. Mound couscous in the middle of a serving platter. Place the roasted vegetables around base of couscous. Arrange 5 carrots vertically around couscous; spoon topping over top of couscous.

Ras el Hanout

2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed (if you cannot find saffron or don't want to buy, omit)
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Buttermilk-Brined Pork Chops

I decided to try to get back into menu planning again.  Lately too many dinners were decided about 20 minutes before Abe came home and consisted of Boca burgers or Abe making himself tuna salad.  So, out came the flyer for what's on sale this week at the grocery store and my trusty list of cooking books and websites.  Ah.  Add a cup of coffee and this girl's in heaven.

This recipe is very simple and tasty.   You will need to brine it overnight, so plan that into your schedule.  They come out moist and delicious!

I served it with a baked potato and sauteed veggies.

I got this recipe from 

Buttermilk-Brined Pork Chops
Serves 4

2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary (or about 1/3 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage (or about 1/3 teaspoon dried)
4 (6-ounce) bone-in center-cut pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Combine first 6 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag; shake well to dissolve salt and sugar. Add pork; seal and refrigerate overnight, turning bag occasionally. Remove pork from bag; discard brine. Pat pork dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle pork with pepper.
Heat a large nonstick grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Add pork; cook 3 1/2 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Southwestern Potato Salad

I was requested to make a potato salad for some family dinner... can't remember the occasion.  I have a standard version that I've made before.  But I was a bit tired of making it and wanted to find something a bit different.  This fit the bill and became a big hit. 

This recipe has a bit of a kick, so if you like spicy, you are in heaven.  If you're not into the spice so much, adjust the chipotle puree and cayenne to so that it has just a hit of warmth (I'd suggest starting with 1 tablespoon and go from there).  But if you can stand the heat, make it full-strength.  Have a glass of milk nearby though.  The chipotle puree keeps well in the fridge and makes a great condiment to add to lots of things, like sandwiches or anything that calls for a bit of heat.

This goes so perfectly with summertime grilling and picnics.  It stays nice and creamy, so it can stand up to being out in the heat.  I prefer serving it warm or room temp, as I think it loses a bit of its flavor when it's cold.

I got this recipe from

Southwestern Potato Salad
Serves 8

1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chipotle pepper puree (recipe below)
1 large ripe tomato, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
3 scallions, chopped, white and green parts
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
16 new potatoes, about 3 to 4 pounds, cooked, drained and sliced 1/2-inch thick

Combine all the ingredients, except the potatoes, in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Place warm potatoes in a large bowl and pour the mixture over potatoes and mix well. Season again with salt and pepper, to taste.

Chipotle Puree

1 can chipotle in adobo sauce

Puree in blender or food processor with a bit of olive oil until smooth.  Can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks.