how to make A genius Irish staple for using up leftover mashed potatoes and greens—or better yet, make them both fresh. Perfect comfort food, just in time for St. Patrick's.

Colcannon: Comfy Irish Leftovers

Whether under a filter of soft gray light provided by the clouds, in the frequent rain, or the rare and cherished sunshine, Ireland is stunningly, unforgettably green. So it’s only right that the color, in some form or other, should sparkle up that most Irish mainstay, the potato. Hello, colcannon.colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine Continue reading for the step by step without a recipe. For exact amounts, jump to recipe.

Colcannon is a homey dish, made to use up leftovers and make plain old mashed potatoes a little more interesting. Green cabbage is the classic addition, but I like it mixed with kale; more colorful, more nutritious, and just plain delish. Purists might balk at the addition, but hell with ’em.

The dish is super easy. All you need is mashed potatoes, preferably freshly made, but leftovers will do in a pinch. To make mashed potatoes, cube them, with or without the skin, while you bring water to a boil. Drop them into the boiling water with some salt, about a tablespoon is good. (Don’t use your good expensive salt for this; keep some pourable salt on hand just to add to boiling water.) Boil about 10 minutes, testing with a fork. You should be able to stab the cube without much resistance, but it should still stay on the fork. Unless, of course, you like your mashed potatoes on the mushy side.

potatoes boiled for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

Meanwhile, saute up an onion with some greens; honestly, whatever you have in the fridge is fine.

greens for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

When the potatoes are done, drain them, then put back in the pot on the warm (but turned off) stove with the lid on. This dries them out nicely. Smash them, or, my preference, run them through a ricer; it produces a great mealy texture that’s not too fine. It also removes some, but not all of the skins.

potatoes riced for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

Add in butter, sour cream, yogurt, even cream cheese. If you don’t do dairy, you’ll want a plant-based yogurt and you can do oil if you don’t want to do that fake butter for vegans.

Stir in the greens and a mess of chopped herbs—dill and parsley are favorites, chives and tarragon are also wonderful—and you’re good to go.

potatoes and greens together for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

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Colcannon: The Recipe

This recipe says that it makes enough for 2, because the widget requires that I include that info. Let me amend that to “2 really gigantic portions” because I like to just eat these on their own. But if you’re doing sides, you’ll have a fair amount.

colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

the emerald isle bowl, a paleo gluten-free bowl perfect for st. Patrick's day

Emerald Isle Bowl

Ireland is green, green, green, and the fish is—naturally—fresh, fresh, fresh. Steve and I visited a couple of years ago, and loved every minute we were there. Beyond all the stuff we did and people we met, we ate amazingly. I invented the Emerald Isle Bowl while we were there, taking advantage of the gorgeous fresh produce and the fresh-out-of-the-Irish-Sea salmon.

Jump to recipe.

With St. Patrick’s coming up and spring trying hard to push back winter, I wanted to get this simple, relatively quick, and very colorful meal in front of you. The textures of the Emerald Isle bowl give your mouth plenty to play with.

They start with the raw. That includes juicy fruit—I used a pear but green apples are terrific as well—crispy cukes, crunchy cabbage and romaine, and chewy kale.

raw ingredients for cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

And then we have the cooked: delicate salmon, golden-outside-soft-inside cauliflower and broccoli. I also gave the pistachios a little toast for extra crunchiness.

cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

The herbs, a throw-caution-to-the-Irish-wind blend of tarragon, dill, mint, and parsley, add fresh-meadow flavor. The horseradish dressing does that thing where it kind of opens the top of your head. In Dublin, I went crazy for Graham’s, the absolute best horseradish sauce I’ve ever tasted. But any good horseradish cream sauce will work. Or just add some wasabi or minced horseradish to the yogurt and mayo you have on hand.

the sauce for cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

Optimum prep includes reusing the same bowl to do all of the following:

  • Toss the cauliflower with oil.
  • While the cauliflower cooks, toss the broccoli with oil.
  • Massage the kale with oil.
  • Toss the romaine, cabbage, herbs, and kale with the dressing before plating.
  • raw greens for cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

Above all, be sure to improvise. Use whatever herbs you have handy, though dill and parsley are highly recommended. Change up the vegetables if you like; the bowl looks just as pretty with other colors besides green. And if you want a starch, watch your email for my soon-to-appear recipe Colcannon, the classic Irish potato with whatever-greens-I-have-in-the-fridge.

the emerald isle bowl, a paleo-friendly gluten free bowl recipe from le chou fou

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Emerald Isle Bowl: The Recipe

salad argentina style, heaped on a pizza

Salad Argentina Style

I fall in and out of love with salad. When I make the effort to create a really good one, I wonder why I ever eat anything else. But when I’m lazy and do the same old same old, and I wonder why I bother.

When I travel, I expect hit and miss. Over the last few years, I’ve had great success with simple salads in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Ireland. In Italy, surprisingly, I had some plates of green as depressing as anything I’ve seen in the US. In the Caribbean and Colombia, I resign myself to getting my fresh raw produce via smoothies. The tropics are not conducive to glorious greens; often, the only lettuce I see is a  hydroponic variety devoid of flavor and texture.

So when we decided to hit Buenos Aires for a couple of weeks this winter, I thought, well, I’m not going to expect much. Most people, including many Argentines that we met along the way, equate Argentina with beef. In fact, if you say “carne,” Spanish for meat, in Argentina, beef is assumed. I figured for a vegetable, I’d probably be offered pork.

I have never been so delighted to be proven wrong. Salad Argentina-style, at least in BA, is a glorious, creative wonder. Certainly, it helps that we were there in the height of summer. The climates of Argentina and Uruguay remind me of those in the California where I grew up: sunny, dry-ish, and fertile. Geographically, the soil is rich and good, not needing a bunch of weird treatments. Farmers get respect.

Most importantly, food tastes like it’s supposed to, and salads taste green. My first one arrived not as a salad, but as a pizza from La Pharmacie, a restaurant near our 10-day home. A crisp crust spread with a dense tomato sauce and thin slices of melted mozzarella featured a lush layer of peppery, tender-crisp raw arugula on top. Meaty, fruity olives perched on top. The great thing about this meal: I didn’t think I was ordering a salad, but I got one anyway, and I also began to completely rethink the concept of pizza. Why shouldn’t it just be a crispy base for a ton of fresh vegetables?

Salad Argentina style-a pizza topped with fresh arugula from La Pharmacie in Buenos Aires

I intentionally order a salad from Cabernet restaurant in Palermo. This beauty featured tender crisp mixed greens surrounded by paper-thin, perfectly ripe pears, sprinkled on top with hazelnuts and blue cheese. (Sorry about the light here, but perils of restaurants, etc.)

Salad Argentina style-a pear-hazelnut-blue-cheese-arugula combo

Back at Pharmacie, this Caprese was simple and stunning, with sweet roasted peppers in crimson and saffron, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and plenty of basil. (And, needless to say but I’ll say it anyway, non-optimal light.)

Salad Argentina style-the wonderful simple caprese from la Pharmacie in Buenos aires

Salad Argentina-style: A few guidelines

Here’s what the salads had in common:

  1. A base of flavorful, thoughtfully chosen greens. Optimally, get the best you can find, wash them yourself (rinsing a lot, bc the good stuff is dirty), spin them dry, and pile them on the plate—or the pizza.
  2. Something sweet. Roasted peppers and roasted cherry tomatoes were favorites, but fruit, particularly pears, were frequent add-ins as well.
  3. A little cheese. If you’re vegan, you’ll skip this. But having access to really excellent cheese is one of the reasons I never can quite commit to being a vegan. There simply isn’t a substitute for the creamy yum of farm-fresh cheese.
  4. Something savory. Olives of all kinds, or artichoke hearts, or bamboo hearts (easier to get down here). Or nuts. Usually not all of those things, which allows the flavors to shine.

It’s not so different from the directions in the salad post I’ve already done. The main thing is, Salad Argentina helped me snap my winter-dulled palate back into life. As I get back in cooking mode here, these faves from other cooks can brighten up your late winter kitchen. Because admit it: You gotta be a little tired of soup at this point.

Tieghan at Half Baked Harvest is always rock solid—I actually just typed “rock salad,” which I sort of like. This recipe for broccoli and avocado salad is excellent.

I haven’t tested this vegan salad made from spiralized sweet potatoes (from Laura at The First Mess), but the combo of chipotle with miso seems like a spectacular transition one for early spring—which, they tell me, is coming.

Yotam Ottolenghi creates such glorious, flavorful salads. If you love vegetables, get his book Plenty. This salad introduces what for me was a revolutionary idea: mix herbs with impunity. Don’t worry so much about the grams, just look at the proportions: about 2 parts cilantro (aka coriander) and parsley to 1 part basil and dill, 3 parts arugula (rocket), and 4 parts some type of young lettuce; just be sure you get something with flavor. Play with the nuts and seeds. Know that when Brits say mange tout (it means “eat all”), they mean “snow peas,” because sometimes they forget that they hate the French (which is sort of adorable). Use the recipe as a jumping off point, and discover joy and wonder on a plate.

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bowl building: ready to roll

How to Build a Bowl

Bowls have been a thing since long before you saw “bowl” on offer everywhere you looked. I’m a grazer, so bowls are pretty  much my favorite way to eat. This super simple guide promises super easy bowl building with whatever ingredients and combos float your boat.

Bowls optimally include the following:

  • Dressing, which goes on the bottom of the bowl; for this one, I made a balsamic mustard maple vinaigrette.
  • Grain or starch: I used quinoa here, into which I grated a beet.
  • Roasted veggies; here, I diced up some sweet potatoes.
  • Raw veggies: Kale and cabbage are ideal because they’re so sturdy.
  • Protein: Mine of choice was feta cheese.
  • Something sweet: I had a pomegranate on hand.
  • Something crunchy, and if you’re traveling, packed separately: I roasted some walnuts.

bowl building ingredients

I used this recipe from Clean Eating pretty much verbatim, except that the dressing they recommend is WAY too tart for me (1/4 cup of vinegar and no oil?? that’s nuts.) So I just made your basic vinaigrette, which is pretty dark due to balsamic and maple syrup.

Now the thing with published bowl recipes is that they put them in Mason jars, which looks beautiful but has never worked for me. I like to be able to toss my salads so they really get coated in dressing, and just shaking a packed Mason jar up and down doesn’t cut it for me.

We like to do a little bowl building before a road trip, so we just layer ours in this handy plastic bowl. As noted, keep the roasted crunchiness (nuts in this case) separate and add when you eat. Soggy crunchy stuff is for the birds. Actually, watching the birds chow down on sunflower seeds right now, I must argue with myself and say birds look askance at soggy crunchy stuff, too.

Here’s how our to-go pack looks.

bowl building: salad packed and ready to hit the road

And here, taking with unfortunate night-time overhead lighting, is how our salad looks plated. It tasted really good. Please excuse the near-sepia tone.

bowl building: plated salad

Bowl Building: Inspirations and Ideas Aplenty

You can find good bowls all over online. Check out my Pinterest board for suggestions from around the web, or try one of my recipes.

Or just give bowl building a shot on your own. Enjoy!



rapini and how to make it tasty

Rapini

How do you solve a problem like…..rapini? On the shelf, it looks so adorable, bright emerald green baby broccoli flowers amid plenty of leaves that look like mustard greens, with crispy-looking jade green stems…

rapini, raw and innocent looking

You may think, well, there’s nothing to that but to pop it in a pan with some garlic, and…Yum! But should you do that very thing, you are likely to see troubled looks on the faces of your fellow diners—they trusted you, and you give them this?—and may end up barely able to swallow what seemed like a great idea.

If that sounds as if it comes from bitter (pun very much intended) experience with this particular vegetable, you have perceived correctly. I once innocently sauteed up a pan of rapini, blithely served it to Steve and Henry. I insist on honest reactions to my creations here, and I got them. Steve, normally a totally easy keeper on the vegetable front, said, “Wow. This is horrible.” Henry stood up and poured his in the garbage. Steve and I followed suit.

Rapini, you saucy trickster! You’re not broccoli at all, but a very stylish member of the turnip family. Hence the extreme bitterness. So why bother, when you could just get broccoli, which is honestly pretty hard to screw up? Because if you can get rapini right, it’s a wonderful way to zazzle up your taste buds. Tempered correctly, which you will shortly learn how to do, rapini provides a pleasant bang of bitterness, a wonderful texture—it doesn’t get mushy, but you also won’t feel like a horse chewing it—and a veritable powerhouse of nutrition. Vitamin K and C, cancer-fighting properties, anti-inflammatory, alkalizing: Read all about it at this link (though I caution against preparing the soup recipe unless you follow the de-bittering step here).

What is this magical step to render rapini ravishing? A big old pot of boiling water. Bring it to a boil, throw in about a tablespoon of salt, and blanch for about 2 minutes. (I break off any tough-looking stems prior to boiling.) The process mellows the bitterness to a manageable amount, and the broccoli stays bright green. Then simply drain, squeeze out as much water as possible, and chop coarsely. The amount shown below is the yield from the big batch of rapini at the top of the page (probably about 2/3 of a pound).

Rapini loves garlic. Heat your pan, heat some oil (olive is perfect), sauté your super thin garlic slices with a little salt for about 45 seconds so they’re just starting to turn gold. Then add your chopped rapini.

Rapini is no delicate creature. I give it about 8 minutes, but it can go longer. You’ll end up with a lovely big batch that you can keep on hand for about 3 days and throw into all kinds of things.

The night I made this up, Steve threw a big handful into some soup. I had some naan on hand, which I brushed with a little garlic oil, toasted briefly in the oven, then topped with the sauteed rapini, some leftover meatballs sliced thin, and some fresh mozzarella and a little parmesan. A heavenly little personal pizza. Don’t stop there. Throw some sauteed rapini into pasta or rice. Use it as your green in a bowl; it would be amazing as a bi bim bop component. Just one warning: Now that you know how rapini should taste, you would be wise to avoid ordering it in U.S. restaurants, and if you see it in a deli case, be sure to get a sample. Rapini always looks good. It stays bright green pretty much no matter what.

Of course, if you see it in Italy, go nuts. They kind of invented the stuff.



quinoa crust quiche

Quinoa Crust Quiche

I love quiche—or at least, the idea of it. I order it when I go out and it usually delivers my requirements: buttery crust, eggy goodness, cheesy decadence. But when I’m honest, I know that most of those buttery crusts that I’m paying other people to fill came straight out of a package. Meanwhile, I have a perfectly fine, infinitely healthier alternative on hand. That big old package of quinoa calls my name. And one of the best ways to use it up is with a quinoa crust quiche.

quinoa crust quiche

Jump to recipe.

Why, you may ask, do I happen to have said gigantic quinoa package? Well, I’m not trying to be mean, but quinoa tastes weird. I always detect this odd, sort of dusty undertaste. I know it’s not this package either, or that it’s old, or any other explanation. Nonetheless, its nutritional perks are impressive. Protein-rich, fiber-rich, chockful of vitamins and minerals—read all about quinoa’s specific health benefits here, and check out Jennifer’s terrific blog while you’re at it. Also in its favor, quinoa morphs easily as a substitute for all kinds of grains, particularly those that are already fragmented into small pieces like cracked wheat and couscous.

As a pie crust substitute, it’s super easy and SO much healthier that it’s worth a try. Just be forewarned: You are not making something that will taste like a pie crust. A quinoa-crust quiche does not flake with buttery goodness. Rather, it sits on the plate as a hearty earthy base for all the eggy-cheesy-veggie goodness you want to throw in it. These items I had on hand just begged to be added to a tasty quinoa crust quiche.

quinoa crust quiche likes veggies

(I just realized I’m writing as if I’m Kathy Najimy’s character in The Fisher King. Is she the one responsible for that thing where we add a y to the end of basically every single word? If so, huzzah to you, Kathy.)

So with the quinoa crust, you gotta remember that weird quinoa flavor that you want to camo just a tad. That means that, at the very least, you need to cook the quinoa with salt (or the no-salt sub of your choice), preferably in broth rather than water. Once all the water’s cooked in—and do make sure the quinoa’s not wet at all—and the quinoa’s cooled, add an egg. But you can add even more flavor by sauteeing and adding an onion, or lots of chopped herbs, including scallions, and—most decadent of all—a big old handful of your favorite grated cheese.

Now, simply place the mixture into a pie pan that you’ve sprayed with no-stick, or oiled, or buttered; up to you. I like to take a piece of wax paper and use that to press the quinoa into shape…

quinoa crust quiche: use parchment paper to press evenly

…keeping it even on the bottom of the pan and nicely rising on the sides.

quinoa crust quiche, the crust ready to pre-bake Then bake, and voila. Your quinoa crust is about to become a quinoa crust quiche. I used this recipe from Clean Eating as my jumping off point. When I originally posted this recipe, I had broccoli, kale, and a bunch of mushrooms on hand and quite happy to jump into the pan.

quinoa crust quiche gets filled with a mix of vegetables

This week, I did a Skype cooking session with a pal, and we both realized we could pretty much use any vegetable-ish substance. For me, that was leeks standing in for the onions, dandelion greens, kale, and asparagus; for the last, I followed the advice of a couple of vintage cookbooks and peeled the stems, making the asparagus a lot more palatable. The first go-round, I placed the veggie mix directly into the crust….

quinoa crust quiche, ready for the milk cheese mixture

…then topped with an egg and cheese mix…

quinoa crust quiche gets a layer of egg and cheese filling

…and  then more cheese. (This is actually kind of a modest amount, but I have some in the crust and also some feta mixed into the eggs. Go as wild as you like.) By the way, the speckles are from the mustard I used.

Quinoa crust quiche before going into the oven.

Here’s that one finished:

Yesterday, I separated the eggs, whipping the whites to soft peaks. I mixed the yolks and cheese with the cooked veggies, then folded in the whites. Then pour it into the crust. I actually prefer this one, so have amended the recipe below to include it.

quinoa quiche

There you have it. You’ve used up some of that sad wallflower quinoa (to use my buddy Jenny Englander’s term), and you’ve got a healthy meal you can pack up for a road trip or nosh on at your desk. Some cherry tomatoes sparkled up both the visual and flavor palates. Enjoy with your own seasonal variations throughout the year.

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Quinoa Crust Quiche: The Recipe