Mushroom, White Bean and Sage Soup

If you have mushroom stems stashed away, make this with homemade Mushroom Stock. This gluten-free, vegan soup is hearty enough to make a meal with nothing more than a hunk of good bread.



Harvest Time

For some reason, I have a tough time each year letting go of summer and welcoming fall—much as I love both seasons. When the sun takes on a lackadaisical slant and the earth smells wet, it makes my chest swell with a sort of nostalgiancholy. So I thought I’d take a cue from one of Noemi’s alphabet books and spell out how harvest feels to me.


HHope. There’s something about harvest that conveys hope to me. It’s the end of a cycle, a time of reaping what was sown in faith knowing it would grow.

AAbundance. I feel such gratitude during harvest for the abundance that it brings. Some of it is subtle, a smile that creeps up when I smell the last of the tomatoes roasting in the oven. Some of it is intimate, gathering with close friends to laugh and toast and enjoy the fruits of our labor. And some is universal, a feeling that the earth has yielded what it will for this year, and that now is the time for restoration.

RRest. I love how the pace here slows as winter sets in — in the vineyards, in our homes. It’s a time when we’re deepening our roots and gaining nourishment to enable the fruits of the next season to flourish.

VVaried. When I hear people say that California doesn’t have ‘real’ seasons, I always beg to differ (and I grew up in Illinois and Connecticut, so I know what people mean by ‘real’ seasons). No, we don’t get snow (although the Mayacaymas mountains do get dusted every few years, and it is magnificent), but each year I’m riveted by the beauty of the vines in their cloak of colors, and the way the autumn mist brings an otherworldly element to the mornings. We most certainly do have seasons here in wine country.

EExuberant. When I think of harvest, I think of laughter. Laughter floating above the vines as we help our friends clip grape clusters row by row. Giggling about garden mishaps that wind up weaving their way into our collective stories. The deep contentment that seems to radiate from people’s faces around the dinner table.

SSustenance. Sustenance is about more than just fueling your body with what it needs to survive, it’s about being a part of a larger whole that feeds our soul . . . as is harvest. Sharing the bounty with those we love is just as much sustenance as the fruits of harvest itself.

TTrust. I sometimes find it hard watching the vines go dormant, the garden laid bare-–both literally and metaphorically. I get impatient for the next season of growth to arrive. But I need to trust-–that the buds will come again, that the fruit will follow, and even that there is purpose to this season of starkness.

This harvest season is heightened for me as we count down the days for NOURISH Evolution’s launch out of beta. It has been a long spring and summer of sowing and hard work and next week, it will all be ripe. You’ll see dramatic changes to the site that will make it much easier to navigate, connect and share. And stay tuned for news on November 2 of an exciting sweepstakes to promote the launch (or shall we say harvest?). Thank you, thank you, thank for your support through this stage . . . I look forward to sharing many more seasons here with you.

Harvest Pasta

There are so many things I love about this pasta. For one, it’s packed with loads of my favorite vegetables. For another, its incredible flavor is the perfect illustration of just how delicious healthy can be. But it also, to me, captures the essence of the change of season: summer’s bounty exuding a homey scent as it roasts in the oven, a portent of the many braises to come. What can I say? This dish truly nourishes me body and soul.


4 cups eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups sweet frying peppers (like Cubanelle), sliced into thick rings
4 cups tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound dried whole grain pasta (your choice of shape, I especially like fusilli or penne with this)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup basil, torn

Preheat oven to 400.

Toss eggplant, onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl and spread in a large, heavy roasting pan. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, turning occasionally, until ingredients are slightly caramelized and melded together into a chunky sauce.

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water while vegetables are roasting. Strain pasta and return to pot, reserving 1/2 cup cooking liquid.

When vegetables are done, scrape them into the bowl with the pasta and toss. Pour the reserved pasta water into the roasting pan to deglaze and add the vinegar. Pour over pasta and toss again.

Top with cheese and basil and serve.

Serves 8

Big City Lamb Souvlaki

When I lived on Corfu, souvlaki meant skewers of grilled, marinated pork. But on a trip through Athens seeking out the best street food and mezedhes, we found this version of souvlaki to be utterly addictive. These Greek kebabs are moist and tender with just the right amount of spice. Serve these lamb skewers on platters with tzatziki, or in pitas with chopped tomato and onion.



Stalking the Wild Chile: A Pepper Primer

Under the ever-changing Sonora Desert sky, straddling the Arizona-Mexico border, an unassuming little fruit called the chiltepin pepper has kept cool in the shade of cliff sides  for millennia. And while it thrives in these protected enclaves of the high desert, it packs heat matched only by the noonday sun.

chile-vignetteLast week I set out with friends to find the people who harvest the wild chiltepin and to sample its uses among the descendants of those who first picked the tiny berries thousands of years ago. We traveled south from Sonoita, Arizona across the border at Nogales to the tiny town of Magdalena, where the church of Santa Maria de Magdalena was holding its annual festival to celebrate the harvest. Just as many of these festivals have become north of the border, this one  too has devolved over the years into a bizarre combination of sacred and profane. Nevertheless, thousands descend upon the little village every year for the food and the spectacle surrounding the humble little chile.

We met farmers who were trying to cultivate this wild capsicum, and while they have successfully raised some very tasty, very hot chiles, they are not – strictly speaking – chiltepin. This is due in part to the promiscuous tendency of the entire capsicum genus to crossbreed when given the opportunity, which the chiltepin does when brought in from the wild. This scarcity along with a powerful punch and piquant flavor makes the chiltepin prized among chileheads (of which I am one), but it’s also why you’re unlikely to find it in the typical grocery store produce section.

What you will find in today’s markets, however, is a far greater range than even five years ago. Where once the cook with a passion for the endorphin rush of capsaicin (the chemical in chiles that produces the burning sensation) might find only the ubiquitous jalapeño at any given grocery store, today most will be able to find five or six varieties of fresh chiles, and even more in dried form. Each type varies in flavor and intensity and each have their own individual best uses.

Rating the Heat

All chiles are measured for heat intensity using something called the Scoville Heat Unit, which measures the amount of capsaicin present in a chile.  A sweet bell pepper is a zero on this scale. At the other end sits the downright dangerous Indian chile called Bhutt Jolokia or Naga Jolokia (“death” or “ghost” pepper) at a little over one million SHU or roughly three to ten times hotter than a commercially available habañero. Our humble and elusive chiltepin? A respectable 100,000 SHU.

A Chile Pepper Primer

Poblano/Ancho (500 – 2.5K SHU) — These are the same pepper, with the poblano the fresh form and the ancho the dried version. Each is famous in the two most well-known dishes of their Mexican region of origin – Puebla. The poblano, like a meaty full-flavored bell pepper, is most often stuffed with cheese then battered and fried as a chile relleno. The ancho, with a deep chocolaty flavor and low-hum of heat, is a key ingredient (along with about two dozen other spices) in the intense sauce called mole (and yes you pronounce that last “e,” this is not a small rodent).

Pasilla (1K – 2K SHU) — A pasilla is the dried form of a chile chilaca, and  is most commonly found either whole or powdered. Like its cousin, pasillas too are featured in moles from their native region of Oaxaca in Southern Mexico. Their flavor is deep and complex with a lingering tartness.

Jalapeño (2.5K-8K SHU) — The most ubiquitous fresh chile available in the US, the meaty, tapered jalapeño tops the heat scale for most consumers. Above here, you find mostly masochists and true connoisseurs (and sometimes they’re one and the same). This is the chile you’ll find, usually pickled and sliced, on top of your nachos at the local Mexican chain restaurant, but fresh they have a bright heat to them.

Serrano (10K – 23K SHU) — This is the first pepper that sits on the other side of that line drawn by the jalapeño. A touch hotter than the jalapeno, it has a distinct bite that gives way to nice, full flavor.

Chipotle (10K – 50K SHU) — A chipotle is the smoked and dried version of the jalapeño and can be found dry or packed in cans in a sauce called chile adobo. The regard for this one is on a steep rise in the US due in no small measure to the popularity of the burrito chain of the same name. They lend a sweet, smoky, full-flavored heat and are quite versatile in the kitchen, at home in anything from chili to vinaigrettes.

Cayenne (30K – 50K) — Cayenne is most commonly available in powdered form, where it packs plenty of heat but very little discernable flavor or character. It gets its name from the city in French Guiana.

Habañero/Scotch Bonnet (100,000 – 350,000 SHU) — These are not for amateurs.  In fact even the most devoted chileheads are wary when approaching these bell-shaped beauties.  They look like miniature bell peppers and come in a variety of colors, but don’t be fooled; they’re a very powerful heat source. If you get past the whopping, eye-watering bite, habanero’s finish is bright and tangy.

Taming the Heat

There are three ways to calm a chile’s intensity. First, remove the seeds; they are by far the hottest part of the chile. Second, you can temper the heat by dousing it in vinegar and a touch of sugar in a marinade, a sweet-sour salsa or a salad. Third, you can cook it; chiles are always hotter raw.

Once your mouth is afire there are varying opinions on the best method to douse the heat, but I’ve found that a combination of cold water and starchy food (like rice or bread) works best.

Remember to always wear gloves when handling hot chiles and wash your hands after handling them. Not doing so and then touching your eyes, nose (and, or shall we say certain other sensitive parts) is a lesson you will need only learn once.

Kurt Michael Friese is the founding leader of Slow Food Iowa, serves on the Slow Food USA National Board of Directors, and is editor and publisher of the local food magazine Edible Iowa River Valley. He’s also Chef and co-owner of the Iowa City restaurant Devotay, a freelance food writer and photographer, and author of A Cook’s Journey: Slow Food in the Heartland.

Iowa City Chili

Recipe by Kurt Michael Friese  |  Photo by Lia Huber

There’s a chill in the air here in the Heartland, the kind of windy, rainy days that drill into your bones and create a hankerin’ for a rib-sticking bowl of chili. It’s also a great way to use up the last of your tomatoes and peppers, or to begin to use your new “puttin’ ups” (as my grandma used to call them).


1 tablespoon olive oil
1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
2 medium onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 cup corn kernels (frozen is fine)
2 hot peppers of your choice, fresh or dried, seeded and minced
4 tablespoons hot smoked Spanish paprika
3 cups cooked pinto beans
1 pint canned diced tomatoes
1 pint tomato puree
18 ounces dark beer (such as bock or stout)
4 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Heat olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Sauté ground beef, onion and garlic with a pinch of salt and pepper for 10-12 minutes, until browned, breaking up meat as you stir. Add bell peppers, corn, and hot peppers. Continue to cook over medium heat until peppers are tender, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the remaining ingredients and gently bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 2-3 hours, then turn off heat and allow to cool before refrigerating. Reheat when ready to eat. Serve with grated cheese, chopped onions, corn bread, tortilla chips, or whatever accompaniments turn you on.

Serves 8

The Basics of Braising

As the days grow grayer the light inside glows a tad warmer and anything cooked over a slow, mellow heat seems to suffuse our very souls with comfort. These, my friends, are braising days.

How to Braise

Braising is a cooking method that breaks down tough, fibrous meat through the convective action of steam. After an initial browning on the stove top, meat is sealed in a pan with a small amount of liquid and cooked at a low, steady heat—often for several hours. The reward is meltingly tender meat and a savory, complex sauce with surprisingly little hands-on cooking time.

Ironically, tougher cuts of meat yield the most tender and flavorful braises. Shanks, ribs, legs, shoulder, and chuck or round roasts have ample connective tissue which breaks down and tenderizes meat during a long cooking time, while lean cuts like chicken breast or beef tenderloin simply dry out.

When braising, choose a heavy-duty shallow pot or deep, straight sided pan with a secure lid, like a Dutch oven, a doufeu or even a deep-sided oven-proof saute pan. It should be wide enough to accommodate the meat snugly in a single layer and deep enough so the lid fits tightly. You may need to brown in two batches in order to allow air to circulate freely around the food, but during the slow simmer, meat should be nestled as closely together as possible.

There are four basic steps to braising: browning the meat, deglazing the pan, slow cooking and finishing.

1. Brown the meat on the stove top. Heat the Dutch oven over medium-high heat and swirl in a minimum of fat. Then thoroughly brown the meat on all sides. Allow at least 1/2-inch space between the pieces so that air can circulate or the meat will steam rather than sear (brown in batches if necessary). Don’t rush this process; the more developed the crust, the deeper and more concentrated the flavor of the braise will be. Transfer to a plate when done.

2. Add aromatics like garlic, shallots and hardy herbs to the pan and cook until fragrant and golden. Deglaze the pan with wine, scraping up any bits stuck to the bottom. Then add the braising liquid and bring to a vigorous simmer.

3. Add the meat back to the pan, nestling it into a single layer, then cover tightly and move to the oven. Cook at a low to medium heat until meat is fork tender.

4. Remove meat from the pan and cover loosely with foil. Reduce the sauce on the stovetop over medium-high. Lower heat, add meat back to the pan and simmer to heat through.

There are dozens of variations on the basics, leaving the technique open to interpretation and imagination (like the Five Spice Braised and Glazed Beef Short Ribs below). The ultimate hallmark of a braise is the comfort it brings, both while in the oven and at the table.

Braised and Glazed Five Spice Short Ribs

Braising renders these Asian-inspired short ribs meltingly tender with relatively little hands-on cooking time (and the glaze makes the flavors even more intense).  The ribs freeze beautifully, so cook up this extra large batch and stash half away for a later date.


2 teaspoons Canola oil
3 tablespoons five spice powder, divided
1/4 cup whole wheat white flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
6 pounds bone-in beef short ribs (roughly 12 ribs)
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce, divided
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, divided
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 300. On the stovetop, heat Canola oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

In a wide bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons five spice powder, flour and salt. Dredge each rib in the flour mixture, tapping off excess, and brown on all sides in the Dutch oven, 10-12 minutes total (in batches if need be to allow enough space between the ribs for air to circulate). Remove to a plate as done.

Add onion, carrot, garlic and ginger to Dutch oven and brown for 8-10 minutes. Deglaze pan with 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar and beef broth. Bring back to a boil, nestle ribs in the pot, cover and transfer to the oven. Braise for 3 hours and remove from oven.

While ribs are cooking, mix together honey and remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon five spice powder in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and reduce glaze until a syrupy consistency, about 10 minutes.

When ribs are done, transfer them to a cookie sheet and turn the oven to broil. Brush ribs with half the glaze and broil for 3 minutes, until bubbly. Turn over, brush with remaining glaze and broil another 3 minutes.

Serves 10-12

Barramundi with Shallots and Chile

Barramundi’s meaty yet flaky texture makes it a good pair for dishes with an Asian flair. Like this one, with caramelized shallots and chile and a savory splash of fish sauce. You can find barramundi at many fish counters these days, or in the frozen section of several supermarkets.


2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 jalapenos, thinly sliced
2 8-10 ounce barramundi fillets
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce

Heat peanut oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute shallots and jalapenos for 2-3 minutes, until just amber.

Add fish to the pan and sear on one side for 3 minutes.

Flip the fish carefully with a spatula. Sprinkle sugar and fish sauce over top and cook another 3 minutes, shaking pan occasionally.

Serves 4