Inspiration for Sunday Brunch: Spanish Tortilla and Crisp Winter Salad

Spanish Tortilla & Escarole Salad

Spanish Tortilla served with Escarole Salad

I must give credit where credit is due. This meal was largely Hubs’ inspiration. In our penultimate CSA pick-up, we had a carton of freshly dug potatoes and an overstock of bell peppers. Hubs suggested a favorite dish of ours and ran with it: the traditional Spanish Tortilla. Not to be confused with corn or flour tortillas used in Mexican cuisine, the Spanish Tortilla is an egg omelet/frittata-like dish, usually served in wedges at tapas bar all over Spain, or a staple as part of a meal. It is a hearty dish, and really makes a perfect meal on a fall morning. You can serve it warm or cold, and like most of my suggestions, makes for great leftovers.

Last Sunday morning,  as soon as breakfast was over, Hubs got straight to work on the tortilla.  It does take some prep work, but as I mentioned, it is not a one meal wonder. The beauty of preparing the tortilla in the morning is that we had our lunch ready to go and waiting for us when we came in after a brisk fall walk. All I had to do was prepare the salad. We had a large bag of curly escarole, so I made a simple balsamic vinaigrette and served it on the salad. The slightly bitter, crispy crunch of the escarole was a perfect side for the egg and potato tortilla, served room temperature. I hope this meal inspires you, too. And props to Hubs.

Tortilla Espanola
 (adapted from Mark Bittman’s Spanish Potato Omelet recipe in How to Cook Everything)
Spanish Tortilla

Spanish Tortilla

1/3 cup olive oil
1 pound yukon gold or other white potato, sliced 1/8″ thick (you can peel if you wish)
1 onion, sliced
1 red or green bell pepper, washed and sliced thinly (optional)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
6 large eggs
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

Using a 10″ cast iron pan, or other oven-proof pan or skillet, heat about 1/2 the olive oil on the stove top over a medium flame. Add the potatoes slices and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 20-25 minutes, turning the slices every few minutes. They are ready when softened and slightly browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Add remaining oil to pan, warm for a minute, then add the pepper and onion. Saute for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are softened. Then add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes. Return the potatoes to the skillet and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook the potatoes, peppers and onions together, turning occasionally for another 5 minutes or so.

Beat the eggs, add salt and pepper and the parsley. Reduce the flame to low and slowly pour the eggs over the potato mixture. Shake the pan to distriubte the eggs evenly and leave undisturbed for about 5 minutes. Once oven is hot, transfer to oven and bake for ~10 minutes. The tortilla is ready when the mixture is set on top. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Flip onto serving dish, or remove carefully with spatula. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Poached Eggs in Tunisian Red Pepper Sauce Sounds Better Than Green Juice

Poached Eggs with Tunisian Red Pepper Sauce & Chickpeas with Leeks, Spinach and Smoked Paprika. Courtesy of Bon Appetit

And it looks and tastes a heck of a lot better, too. This is post #2 in my series on the “So-called Cleanse” for food lovers. I found this dinner recipe mid-way through the 2 week menu from Bon Appetit’s Food Lover’s Cleanse and fell in love.  High-protein, vegetarian, healthy: Poached Eggs with Tunisian Red Pepper Sauce & Chickpeas with Leeks, Spinach and Smoked Paprika. I have already prepared this meal 3 times, sometimes with the accompanying chickpeas, sometimes without, and it is a hit. The red pepper sauce is delicious, with many flavors layered upon one another, and the real kicker is the harissa paste. Also, I have tons of bell peppers in the freezer from the CSA so finding this recipe was a bonus for me. 

Harissa Paste in tube

I had never purchased or used harissa until now, and I am intrigued.  was very glad that this recipe pushed me out of my comfort zone and exposed me to this new ingredient – spicy, smoky, colorful. All good.  Harissa comes in a tube or glass jar. And, WARNING! The level of spiciness can vary dramatically. I speak from experience. Have you used harissa?

The accompaniment, Chickpeas with Leeks, Spinach and Smoked Paprika, is also a great stand-alone dish. It takes about 10 minutes to prepare, is high-protein, vitamin-packed and flavorful. I enjoyed leftovers for lunch the next day and have prepared it for a quick meal without the Poached Eggs dish. I did make a few modifications to these recipes. Hubs is not a fan of poached eggs, so we substituted scrambled eggs and it worked. He seemed to enjoy his meal as much as I did, even without the richness of the poached egg’s yolk mixing with the spicy peppers. Hubs also seemed to enjoy the meal without the accompanying Chickpeas, as that remains a verboten food. Hubs was a good sport about the Cleanse overall, but apparently there are limits. See my modified recipe below.

Eggs with Tunisian Red Pepper Sauce (adapted from Bon Appetit)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored, cut lengthwise into 1/2”-wide strips
  • 1  teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more for seasoning
  • 1  tomato, cored, grated using the large holes on a box grater
  • 1/2 tablespoon (or more) harissa paste (taste for level of desired heat)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar (if poaching eggs)
  • Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon


  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add peppers and 1 tsp. kosher salt and cook, stirring often, until peppers are wilted, 5—8 minutes. Add tomato, 1/2 Tbsp. harissa, and 1 cup water; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often and adding more water if too dry, until peppers are soft, 15—20 minutes. Season with kosher salt and more harissa, if desired. Keep warm.
  • Meanwhile, fill a large skillet with water if poaching eggs. Add vinegar and 1/2 tsp. kosher salt; bring to a simmer. Crack each egg into a teacup, then slide each one into the water; reduce heat to low. Poach eggs until whites are set and yolks are gently set, 3—4 minutes. Alternately, prepare scrambled eggs as you normally would in place of the poached eggs (no vinegar needed).
  • Divide pepper sauce among four warm bowls and top each with 2  poached eggs, or divide scrambled eggs. Season eggs with flaky sea salt.

Yield: 2 servings

Happy eating!

Bye Bye Pepperidge Farm: DIY Stuffing Recipe Selected


Bye Bye: Pepperidge Farm Stuffing in a bag

First time ever: I will stray from my trusted Pepperidge Farm dry stuffing “foundation” in a bag. It is my family’s tradition – what my mom always made, and what I’ve made in recent years. Mind you, she always doctored it up significantly  sauteing carrots, celery, onion and mushrooms before adding the cubed bread mix. Strictly vegetarian, of course. So I am taking it to the next level this year and saying Bye Bye Pepperidge Farm and doin’ it from scratch.

I’ve been inspired by several recent articles online and in print to go my own way, as well as the From Scratch Club blog. I’ll follow the “Simple is Best” Dressing recipe by Sam Sifton from November’s Bon Appetit. It most closely mimics our old recipe – keeping it simple as the recipe title claims. Lots of fresh herbs. No sausage, no dried fruits, nothing fancy.

The recipe doesn’t seem like that much more effort than my old version, just a few additional steps and the need to remember to buy the bread in advance so you can let it go stale.

Please comment below if you make your own stuffing or dressing from scratch.

Tuesday Night & What’s for Dinner? My Take on Pizzoccheri

The weather was turning nasty yet again, and I was feeling like something cozy and hearty for dinner. I was thinking about a pasta dish with some vitamins/vegetables. Pizzoccheri came to mind, which is a dish from the Valtellina in Northern Italy. It is a typical dish served in the mountains, usually during a day of skiing or outdoor labor. It is rich and tasty, made with buckwheat noodles, bitter greens (usually swiss chard), fontina, and sometimes potatoes. Perfect for a dinner for 2 after a day at the office, right? Anyway, the idea popped into my head and I couldn’t shake it.  I didn’t follow a recipe, but made one up as I went along, working off of memory and taste. Tracking down buckwheat noodles at the last minute, was not going to happen, so I used fresh whole wheat fettucine (store-bought), and for the greens, I chose organic kale (I reasoned that the power of the pasta would overcome Hubs’s revulsion to kale). I also bought some fontina to shred into the mix. 

My Pizzoccheri Pasta

The end result was a tasty, gooey pasta dish that warmed the bones. Not quite the traditional recipe, but worth repeating for sure. For more details on the real pizzoccheri deal, you can also check out Mark Bittman’s NY Times article   here.

My Pizzoccheri-like Pasta

3 or 4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound fresh whole wheat pasta, preferably fettucine, or other long flat noodle
1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed and shredded
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
Red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper

Sauteed kale, onion and garlic

In large pan, saute onion in about 2 tablespoons olive oil until softened. Add garlic and continue to saute. Do not brown. Add kale in handfuls and saute until wilted. Add additional 1-2 tablespoons olive oil if kale mixture appears dry. Season with salt and pepper, and red chili pepper flakes (if using). Once kale is wilted, set aside.

Bring large pot of water to boil and prepare pasta according to directions. Fresh pasta only takes 2-3 minutes to cook, so I do recommend preparing the kale mixture in advance, or at least while the water is coming to a boil. Once noodles are al dente, re-heat kale mixture on a low heat, and use slotted spoon to remove from boiling water and add directly to kale mixture. Pasta should have some water on it (no need to drain), that will help loosen up the kale mixture (which is your pasta sauce). Incorporate pasta with kale mixture for a minute or two, over low flame and sprinkle fontina cheese on top. Serve immediately in bowls with additional cheese for sprinkling. Enjoy!

Yield: 2 servings

A Tale of Two Shrooms: Leek and Shiitake Mushroom Risotto & the Aftermath

Summary statement for this post: Make more than you need, it’s better on Day 2. I love making risotto, though it is strictly a weekend activity because it does take more than 30 minutes to prepare. But on a cool fall or winter night, it cannot be beat. I was excited to see leeks again in my last CSA pick-up, as well as 2 large shiitake mushrooms. I decided to prepare a Leek & Shiitake Mushroom Risotto dish – a twish on the traditional Mushroom Risotto. I would use leeks instead of a sauteed onion, and shiitake mushrooms in place of poricini (traditional ingredient in Italy). Sadly, mushrooms are on Hubs’s verboten food list, but I insisted on using just 1 in this recipe as mushrooms add tremendous depth and flavor AND authenticity.

Best Leftovers: Risotto Al Salto

I also used my homemade Vegetable Stock, and a rind of parmiggiano. The  Risotto was yummy on Saturday night, very earthy and even had a brownish hue. Perhaps a little too shroom-y for Hubs’s taste, which is why we had a nice helping leftover. That’s the aftermath. I usually don’t have risotto leftovers, but was actually happy to have them on Sunday because I could make Risotto Al Salto. This is a classic Northern Italian dish using leftover rice, where you basically make a crispy pancake from your risotto. This photo does not do the dish justice. Hubs declared it much improved on Day 2. Um, what’s not to like?

Day 1: Mushroom & Leek Risotto 

1 cup arborio or cannaroli rice
3 tablespoons butter
2 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced, white and light green parts only
3 cups vegetable stock, warmed
1 – 2 shiitake mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup shredded parmiggiano
1 parmiggiano rind (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Saturday Night Risotto

In a medium, heavy-bottomed sauce pan, melt the butter and saute the leeks. Saute for ~10 minutes until softened, but not yet browned. Add the mushrooms. Saute for an additional 3-4 minutes until mushrooms are softened. Add rice. Stir and let toast for 1 – 2 minutes. Add 1 ladle (about ~1/2 cup) of broth at this time. Add a dash of kosher salt. Stir and let the risotto rest. It should bubble slowly. You want to let the rice absorb the stock, and there is no need to stir it constantly. Check in 2-4 minutes if the liquid has absorbed, and if so, add another ladle of stock. Repeat until risotto has reached desired consistency. It usually takes about 20 minutes or so of “bathing,” and you may have to adjust the stove setting. You can taste for doneness by biting into one grain of rice. It should still have some bite, but be cooked all the way through.

When risotto is cooked, stir in cheese gently. You can add an additional tablespoon of butter (optional), and add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with a handful of shredded parmiggiano and enjoy.

Day 2: Mushroom & Leek Risotto Al Salto, or Risotto Pancake

Leftover risotto
1 tablespoon olive oil
Handful of shredded parmiggiano

Drizzle oil in medium saucepan and heat over medium heat. Spoon risotto into pan and spread out, like a pancake. Allow risotto to crisp, cooking for about 5 minutes. Flip using a spatula and crisp on other side. Slide onto plate and sprinkle with parmiggiano. Cut into quarters and serve. Enjoy!

And, for more details on making Risotto Al Salto, you can check out Giada de Laurentiis’s recipe.

3 Reasons to Make Homemade Vegetable Stock

Why bother to make your own stock from scratch? Easier to use it from the tetra-pak, aluminum can, or make it from a bouillon cube, right? I don’t disagree, and in a pinch, I will do the same.  And not to go all Martha Stewart on you, but I will give you my Top 3 Reasons for going the extra mile for this “pantry” staple:

  1. Flavah, flavah, flavah
  2. Ready to use when you need small quantities
  3. Savings

And if I had to give you only one reason, it would really be flavor. Using homemade stock in soups, risottos, and sauces has a dramatic impact on the taste of your final product. It adds depth and savoriness, and also a LOT less sodium than any pre-packaged variety. Also, store bought vegetable stock (for vegetarians and vegans) usually leaves something to be desired when it comes to flavor.

I will admit that it does require some advance planning and some effort on your part, but you will reap the benefits next time you make a pot of soup. Like any staple, when you make a batch of homemade stock, it is to put up. The recipe below (or any variation) freezes well. Once cool, pour broth carefully into ice cube trays, freeze, then pop out and store in Ziploc freezer bags (several per bag). The recipe makes an excellent base for all your vegetarian winter meals. I used about 1/3 of last week’s batch the same evening for my Leek & Shiitake Mushroom Risotto. Stay tuned for details.

I’ll spend a moment on Reasons #2 & #3 and stick with the soup example. If you aren’t making soup every night, you probably won’t go through an entire carton of stock. So, perfect to use 2 or 3 ice cubes of homemade Vegetable Stock that will be stored away in your freezer.  Since the flavor is super-concentrated, you can use about 1/2 the quantity needed and add water to dilute. As for savings (reason #3), I can guarantee that using up the past-their-prime veggies in your fridge and cupboard will cost less than purchasing cans or cartons of ready-made stock. If you are a planner, you can save vegetable peels in your freezer to use later for stock preparation. I admit that I have never had my act together enough to do this, but have thought about it.

DIY Vegetable Broth – Basic Recipe

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped, include some leaves
5 -10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
5 to 10 white mushrooms, halved or sliced (Optional)
Vegetable peelings or scraps (think green tops from leeks, potato peels, carrot peels)
10 to 20 parsley stems or stems with leaves
Kosher Salt
10 Whole pepper corns

1. Put the oil in a deep skillet or broad saucepan or casserole over medium high heat. When hot, add the carrots, onion, celery, and garlic. Cook without stirring for about 5 minutes, then stir once or twice and cook until the vegetables begin to brown. (If you have more time, brown them well, stirring only infrequently.)

2. Add the parsley, mushrooms (and any other vegetables), 8 cups water, and some pepper. Bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so the mixture simmers steadily but gently. Cook for at least 30 minutes until the vegetables are very tender, up to an hour if you have time. The soup will reduce, that’s ok.

3. Strain well, pushing down on softened vegetables to release the maximum amount of liquid, before using or storing. Allow to cool completely before freezing in ice cube trays. Can store in refrigerator for up to a week.

Chime in if you’ve ever made your own homemade stock and why – vegetarian or otherwise.

Late Summer Crunchy Veggie Salad

I had called this a vegetable and brown rice salad in an earlier post, and realized that it makes it sounds awfully boring. Very health food store-y, and not in a good way. So I’ve re-branded my headline in the hopes that it will encourage more folks to give this awesome, flavorful, deeply-textured, nutrient-dense dish a try. This was a perfect lunch dish, and one that you can prepare in advance, good for 1-2 days.

Late Summer Veggie Salad: Layered colors and textures

Here is an updated version of the recipe:

Summer Veggie Rice Salad
adapted from Bon Appetit June 2012

1 small shallot, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 cups cooked brown rice, cooled
2 cups bite-size pieces assorted vegetables  (I used radishes, steamed cauliflower, bell pepper, green beans)
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
3/4 cup torn mixed leafy greens, sprouts, and herbs (Optional – I didn’t have any on hand, so skipped it)
1/3 cup chopped red onion or scallions


  1. Make the dressing: mix shallot, parsley and lemon juice together in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in oil and use whisk to mix dressing.
  2. Place remaining ingredients in a large bowl; drizzle with 3 Tbsp. dressing and toss to coat. Pass remaining dressing alongside for drizzling over.


And for those interested, origins of Ingredients:

– Cauliflower, bell peppers, jalapenos, onions, garlic: WSF

– Sauteed Green beans: Citarella Market (I cheated on this one, these were already prepared when I bought them)

– Breakfast radishes: our garden

Late Summer Veggie Salad

Another Great Corn Recipe: Sauteed Corn with Fresh Herbs Galore

Sure everyone loves corn on the cob. But after the first few butter-slathered corn on the cobs of the season, most folks start to wonder what to do with all those ears of corn. We had a bunch from our CSA pick-up, and as June reminded me, corn does not last. Fresh corn is a limited time only treat, and we all want to make the most of it.

Hubs and I discovered an awesome recipe in Bon Appetit a few years ago that has become one of our go-to recipes for summer corn. Sauteed Corn with Tons of Herbs is simple, easy and takes advantage of other seasonal items like fresh herbs and shallots. What else are you going to do with that parsley and basil gone wild in your garden?

From Bon Appetit:Summer Corn Saute with Tons of Herbs

This is an easy recipe, but it does take some elbow grease. First, remove the corn from the cobs.

Preparation: Corn removed from cobs

Next, chop up your herbs and shallots:

Hubs Handiwork: perfectly minced herbs and shallots

Then saute the shallots and cumin seeds in some butter, add the corn and continue to lightly saute. Remove from flame and fold in herbs. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve. Delicious warm or cold. Leftovers always welcome.

What do you do with summer corn once your love affair with corn on the cob has ended?