French ratatouille on Mexican tostadas? You bet! Our Really Easy Roasted Ratatouille may be firmly rooted in Provence, but that tasty melange of end-of-summer eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini and peppers plays well with other cuisines. Lia and I went back and forth on the best Mexican dish to showcase the vegetables. Should they be folded into tacos or tucked into quesadillas? Both would work just as well, but we ultimately decided to show the ratatouille off on an open-face tostada. Round out this light, colorful main dish with a salad of romaine lettuce tossed with this dead-easy Lime Caesar Dressing, and dinner is served.
This is the recipe I wrote for the Sunday meal at Rancho La Puerta during my week as visiting chef. Originally, I’d planned on serving the polenta with slender spears of broccolini, but we had a giant box of snow peas and beautiful bok choy fresh from the garden, so Chef Eddy and I changed it up a bit. I love searing squares of this polenta in some hot olive oil—or charring it on the grill as I do here—and serving it with just about anything: An egg and some greens in the morning, a mushroom ragu or tomato sauce at night. It’s super versatile and a great thing to have in the fridge for easy meals throughout the week.
This vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free cauliflower soup from Tess Masters’ cookbook The Blender Girl (Ten Speed Press) gets its luscious, creamy texture from soaked nuts. Masters is a big fan of soaking nuts, seeds, dried fruits and grains to improve the texture (for nuts, seeds and dried fruit) and reduce cooking time (for grains). Soaking the nuts is also easier on your blender and ensures they break down to a creamy consistency. Masters uses a high-powered Vitamix blender, which pulverizes the soup to a silky-smooth consistency. If you’re using a less high-powered blender or food processor and want a perfectly smooth texture, strain the soup through a fine-mesh sieve after blending. You can also take a cue from Masters and stir a protein-rich cooked grain, such as quinoa or millet, into the finished soup to give it extra nutritional punch. However you garnish it, this cauliflower soup is even tastier the next day. (Want your own copy of The Blender Girl? We’re giving away one copy to one lucky reader. Click here to enter.)
This is one of my favorite basic recipes. I use these white beans in salads with tuna, in pasta, and often as a main dish … they’re almost to good to serve as a side! A couple of notes: 1) use any kind of white bean you want for this–just be aware you may need to adjust the cooking time depending on type of bean; 2) these freeze really well, so bag up whatever you don’t eat right away to have on hand; and 3) you can use all water or any combination of water and whatever kind of broth you might have on hand–vegetable, chicken, mushroom, whatever–adding broth adds flavor.
Quiche always leaves me feeling greasy and bloated. It seems like it’d be light, but so many quiches end up weighed down with cheese with just a smattering of bland veggies and a butter-loaded crust. This one, my friends, is different. The crust is crunchy-chewy (healthy) quinoa (and therefore, it’s gluten-free, too), and the midsection is filled with garlicky chunks of broccoli and the sharp tang of Cheddar. And, as my 7-year-old daughter proved, this is a quiche kids love, too. Thanks to Closet Cooking for guidance on the quiche shell!
I made this sweet potato side dish for a class I taught in Guatemala to a dozen youth group kids. They were skeptical (to say the least) about the chile powder, at first, but embraced it wholeheartedly after I dubbed them “food adventurers.”
After much agonizing, I’ve come to think of this dish as a naked gratin and close cousin to pommes Anna. I used a mixture of rutabaga, kohlrabi and sunchokes (also called Jerusalem artichokes) in lieu of potatoes, and it was out of this world. The sunchokes, especially, gave it an amazing nutty earthiness. If you can find a pound or so of those, I highly recommend using them. But go with whatever root veggies suit your fancy. One other embellishment I loved … smoked sea salt. Not necessary by any means, but fun if you want to give it a little something extra.
This brown rice porridge is inspired by Chef Louis Maldonado of Spoonbar here in Healdsburg, and most recently of Top Chef fame. He turned me on to rice porridge. It’s one of the staples on his menu that he changes up with the seasons and the whims of the farmers that supply him. It’s also a traditional dish across a number of different cultures, from Korea to Vietnam, and is often eaten as breakfast (which I can now personally vouch for as being a very good idea). On a recent cold, cold night when my family was dropping sick one by one, I conjured this version up to bring comfort to us all. It takes awhile to cook (you can shave off about half the time if you use a pressure cooker), but it’s one of those dishes that calls to you from the fridge all week long, so make a double batch and consider it time well invested.
Making this bread recipe, adapted from cookbook author and cooking teacher Penni Wisner, is one of the best things I do all week. From mixing the ingredients to flipping the finished loaf out of the pan, the whole process is satisfying. And with this no-knead technique, time and the yeast do most of the work for you. I like dusting the dough with cornmeal for a nice crunch, though you can use sesame seeds, poppy seeds, rolled oats or simply flour. I highly recommend using a kitchen scale to weigh the flour — it’s easier, really, and you’ll get more consistent results.
This coleslaw is super simple, crazy versatile, and so good I could eat the whole bowl by itself. Serve it on our Spicy Fish Tacos, as a side with poultry or as a kick-ass sandwich condiment.