Wild Boar Sugo

wild boar sugoIt is cold here, people. I’ll admit my blood has thinned out in San Francisco, but I swear it’s not our wimpy version of winter weather. There’s real frost and everything! Water mains exploding all over the place! It’s weather that calls for a cozy stew or sauce, something to simmer on the stove all afternoon to warm the place up a bit.

We have a freezer full of flavorful wild boar meat, thanks to a hunting colleague of my husband’s who felled the mighty beast himself. Next to lamb, wild boar is my favorite protein, a passion ignited after tucking into plate after plate of cinghiale in the Umbrian countryside and finding fabulous versions here in the city. In my kitchen, we turned one boneless ham into a thick, meaty pot of sugo to dress papardelle and polenta, cracked our last bottle of Montefalco Sagrantino and toasted to another year of the good life. It may be cold outside, but it’s warm in here.

Wild Boar Sugo
makes about 4 1/2 quarts of sauce

  • 3 pounds wild boar meat, cut into 1″ cubes
  • 7 oz prosciutto, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • one bay leaf
  • 3 medium carrots (about 1/2 lb), peeled and diced
  • 5-6 celery stalks (about 1/2 lb), diced
  • 2 medium yellow onions (about 1 1/2 lb), finely chopped
  • 4 fat garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • one tablespoon dried oregano
  • one tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • one tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
  • one tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • one 28-oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes
  • one bottle (750 ml) of full-bodied red wine
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • cooked pappardelle or polenta, for serving

Open the wine and pour yourself a glass. In a small bowl, mix the oregano, fennel, thyme and rosemary and set aside. Season the chopped boar meat with a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. In a large saute pan, warm 1/4 cup of olive oil over high heat and brown the meat, working in batches if necessary.

Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot, warm 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add the prosciutto and cook for 2 minutes. Add the onions, celery, carrots, garlic and bay leaf. Season the aromatics with a pinch of salt and pepper and let sweat for about 8-10 minutes; add the tomato paste and let cook for 2 more minutes. (Turn the heat down to low if you’re finished with this step before the boar meat’s done browning.) Transfer the browned boar meat to the Dutch oven. Turn the saute pan off the heat and deglaze by pouring one cup of red wine, scraping up any browned bits; turn the heat to medium and reduce the wine a bit, 2 minutes. Pour into the Dutch oven.

Add the herbs and the canned tomatoes (including the juice), smashing with the back of your spoon to break them up. Add 2 cups of red wine and 2 cups of beef broth. Bring to a lazy simmer and cook, loosely covered, for 3 1/2 hours, until the meat is tender. (If the sugo is overly watery towards the end, leave uncovered for the last hour or so; if too much liquid has cooked off, add a little more beef broth.) Add salt or more herbs to taste. Serve warm over papardelle or polenta with a drizzle of good olive oil and lots of Parmigiano-Reggianno cheese grated over top.

Note: you can make the sauce ahead (it’ll be even better the next day) or portion the cooled leftovers into pint or quart-size containers for freezing.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Vanilla Cloud Cake

vanilla angel food cakeMy devotion to chocolate is generally absolute, but last week I was in the mood to bake something a little lighter, a little wintry-looking, and something very, very vanilla.  This angel food-style cake was a slam-dunk winner on several fronts: texture (spongy-soft and gorgeously moist), looks (sweet and snowy) and taste (hello, vanilla).  The cake calls for vanilla extract (use the real stuff) and vanilla bean paste (for even more flavor and those pretty little flecks) and I scraped in a whole bean to show off. Why not?

I’m not a fan of traditional scratch buttercreams (too buttery, if that’s possible), so I had a feeling I might like this frosting (cream cheese, whipped cream and white chocolate for sweetness). Oh, my. Dreamy, creamy, pillowy soft, vanilla. I’ll try slathering a batch on chocolate cupcakes sometime very soon.

Vanilla Cloud Cake
adapted (barely) from Shauna Sever’s Pure Vanilla, 2012
for the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cup superfine sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  • 2 cups egg whites (from about 16 large eggs), room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • one tablespoon vanilla bean paste

for the frosting:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
  • 6 oz white chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups heavy cream, very cold
  • one tablespoon vanilla extract
  • one tablespoon vanilla bean paste
  • one vanilla bean pod (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift the cake flour and half of the superfine sugar measure together. To a stand mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, add the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt. Mix on medium speed until the beaten whites form soft peaks that curl over on themselves, about 2-3 minutes. With the mixer running, sprinkle in the remaining superfine sugar until the meringue looks glossy and forms stiff peaks (they’ll stand straight up when you dip the whisk into the whites). Add the vanilla paste.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the meringue. Use a spatula to fold most of the flour into the egg whites. Continue adding the flour in two more additions, folding gently. Gently transfer the mixture to an ungreased 10″ angel food pan and bake for about 40-45 minutes, until golden brown on top and a wooden skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs when inserted into the cake. Invert the cake pan and place on the neck of a wine bottle to cool completely and set its structure, about 1 1/2 hours. (If your pan has feet, you can just flip it over and cool on your counter.) When totally cooled, take a butter knife and run along the inner and outer edges to release the cake from the pan. Place on a serving platter upside down.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and white chocolate until creamy and smooth. With a sharp paring knife, split the vanilla bean pod and scrape out the seeds; add to the cream cheese and mix to combine. (Discard the spent pod.) In a separate bowl, whip the heavy cream, vanilla extract and vanilla paste to stiff peaks. Sacrifice 1/3 of the cream into the cream cheese mixture to lighten it a bit. Fold in the rest and frost the cake.

Note: to cut the cake, it’s best to use a serrated knife; a regular pie spatula or knife will just smush the cake.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weeknight Collard Greens

easy southern collard greens

‘Tis the season, I suppose, but I’ve been running around like a loon the past week or so. It’s hard to keep dinners wholesome and healthful when at the end of a long day all I really want to do is pick up the phone and order takeout. At times like these, it’s crucial to have a few mindlessly easy recipes in my back pocket, and this one for quick-cooking collard greens is a constant in my winter rotation. Tonight I added some chicken sausage and warmed up leftover cannellini beans, and dinner was ready in 20 minutes. Hallelujah.

I’ve shared my favorite fancy holiday greens (rich but so good), and this is basically just a lightened-up, pared-down, weeknight version. It’s inspired by Southern-style greens (I use a little bacon fat for a bit of smoky pork flavor and hit them with cider vinegar when they’re done) but instead of cooking them for hours on end,  just wilt the collards down in chicken stock until they’re softened and brightened to a glossy emerald green.

Simple Collard Greens
serves about 4

  • two large bunches collard greens
  • two fat garlic cloves, minced
  • two tablespoons olive oil
  • one tablespoon bacon fat (see note)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • one teaspoon crushed Aleppo pepper or red chile flakes (optional)
  • one tablespoon cider vinegar

Cut out and discard the stems and tough center ribs of the collard greens, leaving two half-moons. Stack the leaves and cut into rectangles about 2″ x 4″. Rinse well and pat dry (or use a salad spinner, if you have one).

Over medium heat, warm the olive oil, bacon fat and garlic in a dutch oven or a sauté pan with tall sides, until just starting to sizzle, about 2 minutes. Add a big handful of collards and toss with a pair of tongs. Pour half of the stock over top, stirring, and cover with the lid. Let the collards wilt a bit before adding more greens. Add stock as needed; season with salt and black pepper to taste. Continue to cook down, covered, about 5-8 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until the collards are softened and turn a deep emerald green. Take off the heat; sprinkle with red chile flakes and splash with cider vinegar, tossing one last time to combine. Serve warm.

Note: if you don’t have any reserved bacon fat laying around your kitchen, you can omit it or cook a slice or two of bacon before getting started, crumbling the crisped bacon over the collards before serving.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Slow Cooker Chicken Poblano

Full disclosure: the slow cooker is not my favorite kitchen gadget. It’s convenient to have dinner ready the minute I’m home from work, for sure, but I find most recipes I try wind up tasting dull and muddled, no matter how much I’ve seasoned my ingredients. Happily, this Southwestern-style chicken ended up interesting and flavorful (a kick of lime juice and hot sauce at the end brightens everything up), with sweet corn and mild poblano peppers. I’m officially adding it to my list of slow cooker favorites (my braised lamb shanks and pulled pork, respectively), and any recipes you can recommend, friends, I’d love to try those, too.

Since there’s just two of us at my house, there were lots of leftovers, so I shredded the remaining chicken (discarding the skin and mixing in some of the sauce) and froze in zip-top bags. Tomorrow night I’ll fold black beans into the defrosted chicken to make a filling for a big casserole of enchiladas verde, and later I’ll toss the rest into a small batch of white bean chili. I may have to rethink my stance on the crockpot.

Slow Cooker Chicken Poblano
adapted from Gourmet, 2009; serves 6-8

  • six whole chicken legs
  • one large white onion, sliced
  • 6-8 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 lb (about 5)  fresh poblanos (stems, seeds & ribs removed), chopped
  • kernels from 4 large ears of corn (or one 12 oz bag frozen corn)
  • 3 serrano chiles (stems, seeds & ribs removed), minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • fresh lime juice, to taste
  • lots of hot sauce, to taste (I used green Tabasco)
  • rice or polenta, for serving

The night before, rinse and pat dry the chicken legs. Season the chicken with a tablespoon of kosher salt. Refrigerate. Prep the vegetables and aromatics.

In the morning, layer the prepped onions and garlic in the insert of your slow cooker. Over medium-high heat, warm two tablespoons of vegetable oil. In batches, brown the chicken legs on both sides; transfer to the slow cooker. Top the chicken with the poblanos and corn. Set your slow cooker for 4-12 hours, depending on your setting and the manufacturer’s directions. (I set mine for 10 hours on low; six hours on low will yield the best texture.)

When ready to serve, transfer the chicken (it will be falling be off the bone) to a shallow bowl or serving platter. To the cooking liquid, whisk in the sour cream, oregano, cilantro, hot sauce and a squeeze of lime juice. Taste and correct the seasonings to your liking. Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve with rice, extra limes and cilantro.

Note: to freeze the leftovers, discard the bones and skin and shred the chicken, mixing into the cooking liquid. Transfer to gallon-sized freezer zip-top bags, seal and lay flat on a baking sheet; freeze for an hour or two until solid and remove the baking sheet from the freezer. Freezing tends to flatten salt and seasonings, so you may want to doctor the chicken a bit when reheating.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Salmon Cakes

DSC02395Broiling a nice piece of salmon is just about the fastest dinner possible, and one I rely on pretty often on busy weeknights. Sometimes I’ll dress it up with a mustard glaze or yogurt dill sauce, but nine times out of ten it’s just olive oil, salt and pepper. Which can get a little, well, boring after awhile.

So instead of my usual approach, last night I made salmon cakes. I prepared them the exact same way I make Maryland-style crab cakes (oh, how this girl loves a Chesapeake Bay crab cake), with Old Bay and lemon and cracker crumbs. I nudged the flavor up a bit (crab’s delicate flavor is easily overwhelmed, salmon’s less so), and added a bit of dried dill, which has a natural affinity for salmon. Delish. The cakes were moist and well seasoned, very quick to make and pantry-friendly, a new (and un-boring!) addition to my weeknight rotation.

Salmon Cakes
makes three large cakes

  • 8 oz uncooked salmon fillet, skin removed
  • one egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • scant 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
  • one tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup panko-style breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs

Preheat the broiler. (If your broiler is in the main part of the oven, move a rack to the rung closest to the heating element.) Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly mist or brush with olive oil.

In a medium bowl, mix all the ingredients except for the breadcrumbs and salmon. Add the panko, stirring to combine. Coarsely chop the raw salmon and add to the mixture. Gently fold to combine. Pat into burger-shaped patties and place on your prepped baking sheet.

Broil, flipping halfway through, for 10-12 minutes until browned and cooked through, about 150 degrees when tested with a meat thermometer. Serve with tartar sauce or yogurt dill sauce.

Note: Look for wild-caught Alaskan or Pacific salmon at your market, even if it’s frozen. Farmed Atlantic salmon is an inferior product and not a sustainable choice, per the Monterery Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Chocolate Pecan Tart

For folks who like to cook and entertain, Thanksgiving dinner is kind of our Olympics. We are decathletes of starch and sugar and tryptophan, and Turkey Day is the ultimate endurance race. The day after, though, there are no laurel wreaths or medal ceremonies. Instead, we have leftovers. I can think of no better reward, no finer trophy, than a slice of this chocolate pecan tart. Maybe for breakfast.

Imagine a thin layer of chewy-gooey pecan pie filling. Imagine toasty pecans, a crisp, cookie-like crust and a thick ribbon of dark chocolate. Instant tradition, this tart. The shallow pecan-to-filling ratio kept the sweetness from going overboard (traditional pecan pies can be a tooth-ache waiting to happen) but it’s still very much dessert. I’m already thinking about making another for Christmas, though let’s just savor the here and now for a bit, shall we? Enjoy your leftovers, friends, and a happy day-after-Thanksgiving!

Chocolate Pecan Tart
adapted (barely) from Suzanne Goin’s recipe in Bon Appetit, 2012; serves 8-10

  • half recipe Pâte Sucrée
  • flour for dusting
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup dark corn syrup
  • 3 large eggs
  • 11″ fluted tart pan
  • whipped cream (optional)

Bring the  pâte sucrée to cool room temperature while you gather your ingredients. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly flour your worksurface and a rolling pin; roll the dough out (keep adding a little flour with a light hand, so it doesn’t stick) until it’s about 1/8″ thick and an inch larger than your tart pan. Roll the dough onto your rolling pin and transfer to the tart pan. Lightly press into the bottom and sides and roll your pin over the top edge to trim the dough flush with the edges. Chill in the fridge for one hour.

Meanwhile, toast the 1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans (place in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet) for 8 minutes.

With a sharp paring knife, halve the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into a small skillet with the butter. Add the halved bean and warm over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until the butter turns nutty-brown and toasty, about 5 minutes. Take off the heat and discard vanilla bean.

Scatter the toasted, chopped pecans on to the chilled tart dough. Sprinkle the chopped chocolate over top. Place the pecan halves on top in concentric circles, starting at the outer edge. Put tart pan back in the fridge.

In a large bowl, whisk the sugar, salt and corn syrups. Whisk in the warm browned butter, then the eggs, until well combined. Pour the filling evenly into the tart pan, starting in the middle and swirling around to the outer edges.

Bake in the center of the oven until the filling is just set in the middle, about 45-50 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 15- 20 minutes; remove from the tart pan and let cool completely. Serve at room temperature with whipped cream, if desired.

Note: the tart dough can be made and frozen, well wrapped, up to a month ahead. (Defrost in the fridge overnight.) The tart is best the same day it’s made, but to prep ahead, line your tart pan, toast the pecans and prep the other ingredients the night before so it comes together quickly in the morning.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Easy Cranberry Sauce

I am super excited about hosting Thanksgiving this year, friends, and since some of you might be geeking out in your own kitchens, I thought I’d share my menu and suggestions for the bird, sides, and dessert. For the newbie host/ess, take our collective advice and prep what you can ahead (make this cranberry sauce tomorrow, write a timeline for when to put things in the oven, set the table the night before) to break down the big event into easy-to-manage parts. And please ignore those “survival guides” and other bleak magazine descriptors. It’s just dinner, not a countdown to the apocalypse.

First things first: the bird. Apply the same principle to turkey as I do my beloved roast chicken recipe, which calls for a small bird, high heat, and lots of salt. The salt comes from an overnight brine, which makes for a fabulously juicy and well-seasoned bird, and I follow these roasting instructions from an old issue of Gourmet. It’s fast (the bird only takes about two hours, including a half hour rest!) which keeps the white meat from drying out and frees the oven up for side dishes and pies. (NB: I use store-bought gravy, since the drippings from a brined bird are too salty for homemade.) For a smaller celebration, I heartily recommend this recipe for Cornish game hens and cornbread stuffing. Delish.

There’ll be mashed potatoes (make two hours before serving; keep warm on the stove in a heatproof bowl placed over a pot of simmering water), basic roasted sweet potatoes (swapping olive oil for bacon) and these fantastic creamed winter greens which I’ll make the day before and re-warm on the stove. My mother’s dressing (bread crumbs, celery, onions, sage, stock, enough butter to make Julia Child blush) gets prepped on Wednesday and warmed in the oven while the turkey rests. Last week, I made and froze pie doughs for apple pie (my husband and I have a tradition of baking one together the night before Turkey Day) and this pecan chocolate tart that I’ll bake Thursday morning. (Defrost doughs in the fridge a day or two before using.) The tart is the one untested recipe in the bunch, but I trust Suzanne Goin in all things edible.

What else? My mother-in-law is bringing green beans and a pumpkin pie, and our friends are making brussels sprouts. To round everything out, I ordered mini gougères (for pre-dinner drinks) and cornbread from a favorite bakery and flowers from my amazingly talented friend Lidia. The husband’s in charge of mixing cocktails, wine selection and the super-quick cranberry sauce below.

And, praise all that is holy, the dishes.

Easy Cranberry Sauce
serves 6-8

  • 12 oz bag fresh cranberries, rinsed
  • one orange
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • pinch salt

Zest half the orange and reserve one generous teaspoon. Halve the orange and juice; add enough water to the orange juice to make one cup.

In a small saucepan, add the cranberries, sugar, salt, orange juice and zest. Heat over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries start to burst and relax into a thick sauce, about 10 minutes. Let cool and refrigerate until needed, about 2-3 weeks.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments


Today’s recipe comes from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook, the vegetarian classic that was my first real cookbook. I still have my splattered old copy, with its friendly hand-lettered recipes and little line drawings of dancing broccoli, and I remember feeling very brave and grownup in my teeny galley kitchen (my very own kitchen!) learning to cook from it. I’ve made Mollie’s borscht and her Bulgarian peppers, the hummus and Welsh rarebit, but it’s the Greek spanakopita that I’ll always love best. I’ve made and polished off this savory spinach and feta pie many, many, many times.

Since it dries out so quickly, working with phyllo dough can feel a little fussy if you’ve never done it before. If you’re new to it and can recruit a kitchen helper for that step, all the better, but I’ve scaled the recipe down over the years so you won’t need the entire package of dough and can stand to sacrifice a few sheets. (Confetti the kitchen, paper-mâche the dog, whatever you like.) You’ll be rewarded for your efforts with fragrant, satisfying, nutritious comfort food, and in my case a little bit of sweet nostalgia.

adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook, 1977; serves about 6

  • two 10 oz packages of frozen cut spinach, defrosted
  • one large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 5 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • one teaspoon dried oregano
  • one tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • one 16 oz package frozen phyllo, thoroughly defrosted
  • 6 oz crumbled feta (herbed or plain)
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • pastry brush

Over medium heat, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onions and cook until they start to soften, 3 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the dried herbs and garlic; continue to cook for 2 more minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the flour.

Meanwhile, over a strainer wring as much water as you can out of the defrosted spinach. Add to the sauté pan, stirring to combine with the onion mixture. Sprinkle the feta over top and gently stir to combine. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Under running water, soak a clean kitchen towel; wring out until it’s just damp. Carefully unroll the defrosted phyllo dough and cover with a long length of plastic wrap. Place the damp towel over top. (This will help keep the dough from drying out.)

Measure about 1/3 cup of olive oil in a small bowl. With a pastry brush, apply a very thin layer of olive oil to an 8×8″ pan. Roll back your plastic/kitchen towel setup and carefully transfer a sheet of phyllo to your baking dish. (It’s okay if you have overhang, or you can also take a chef’s knife to trim the stack of phyllo so each sheet will fit your pan better.) Replace the towel and plastic. Lightly brush the sheet with olive oil. Repeat with more layers of phyllo, brushing lightly with olive oil in between each layer and keeping the unused sheets of dough covered. Continue until you have about 12 layers in the bottom of your pan. Spread the filling evenly over your layered dough. (You can either trim the excess phyllo so it’s even with the top of the pan, or fold over any overhang to cover the filling.) Continue adding layers of phyllo on top, brushing with olive oil as you did with the bottom layer.

Bake the assembled dish for 40-45 minutes, until the phyllo is well browned. Let cool 10-15 minutes in the pan before slicing into squares or triangles to serve.

Note: I separated the recipe into two smaller pans; cut the phyllo in half cross-wise to do the same. You can wrap an assembled pan well in plastic and refrigerate until needed. I used whole wheat phyllo, which was lovely.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Garlicky Shrimp & White Beans

There isn’t enough space here, not enough on the whole wide Web, to properly give due my love for the gutsy, earthy food of Spain. I love the garlic and olive oil and tomatoes, the shellfish and chiles, the lusty little bites of pinxtos and tapas. And oh, that jamón! Serranos and ibéricos, paprika-spiced chorizos, each a paean to well-tended, dry-cured pork. I hardly need an excuse to crack open a bottle of Rioja or garnatxa, but this pantry-friendly dish seemed highly appropriate, and a good culinary fix until my next trip to Barcelona.

For fuller flavor and texture, you can certainly prepare the dish with dried white beans (borlottis would be great), but I opted for canned beans to keep the preparation weeknight-simple. As with many Spanish preparations, olive oil has a bright presence here, so this is the time to break out your fanciest, best-quality bottle. Olé!

Garlicky Shrimp & White Beans
adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2012; serves four

  • fruity, full-bodied extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 5-6 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • one medium shallot, finely chopped, about 1/3 cup
  • 2 dried chiles de arbol, or 3 dried whole red chiles
  • one bay leaf
  • 8 oz canned tomato (preferably fire-roasted), diced
  • one tablespoons tomato paste
  • one cup chicken stock
  • two 15 oz cans cannellini beans
  • one pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup Spanish chorizo, diced (optional)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika, divided
  • 2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • slices of grilled or toasted country bread

Preheat the broiler. In a small bowl, add the shrimp, two tablespoons olive oil, 1/3 of the garlic, one teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grindings of black pepper. Mix and set aside.

In a cast-iron pan or another heavy, ovenproof skillet, warm two tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat with the remaining garlic, shallot, chiles, bay leaf and a healthy pinch of salt. Stir until fragrant (be careful not to brown the garlic), about 2 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and a pinch of salt, stirring and smashing the tomatoes until they break down into a thick sauce, 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and continue to cook, about 3 minutes. Add the beans, chicken stock, 1/2 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 teaspoon salt, a few grindings of black pepper and bring to a vigorous simmer, cooking until the stock is reduced a bit (about 5 minutes). Taste and correct the salt and pepper to your liking. Stir in the diced chorizo.

Scatter the shrimp on top of the bean mixture and place the pan under your broiler, until the shrimp are cooked through and curled in on themselves, about 3 minutes. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, sprinkle with parsley and serve with toasty bread for dipping.

Note: Spanish chorizo is a dry-cured sausage and fully cooked; fresh Mexican-style chorizo can’t be substituted here. And I find that cannellinis packaged in glass jars have a better flavor than canned, if you can find them.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments


Hola from sunny Mexico, mi amors! Now I know what you might be thinking: a vacation in sunny paradise? With nothing to do but watch the palm trees sway? Thanks, Kate, rub it in. Well, I’ll tell you it has been a grueling 24 hours so far, what with all the pool time and the laying around and the perfect margaritas, the surf-side tacos con pescado and getting all that pesky sand between our toes. At some point yesterday afternoon I took ten minutes to make a batch of guacamole. Ten whole minutes! Paradise is exhausting, people.

Now I know lots of you (particularly the Californians in the bunch) likely have a go-to recipe for guac already, but here’s another flavorful, easy version for the pantheon. And if  you happen to have a six wonderful friends, a relaxed and suntanned husband, a coral-streaked sunset and a bucket of cold Coronas in your pantry, be sure to stir that in, too. Delicioso!

serves 6-8 amigos

  • 2-3 large, ripe avocados
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • one small-medium poblano pepper, very finely chopped, seeds & ribs removed
  • 1/2 large red onion, finely chopped
  • juice from one lime
  • one generous tablespoon cilantro, very finely chopped
  • two roma tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • several dashes hot sauce, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

In a medium bowl, add the garlic, onion and poblano pepper. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Halve the avocados and scoop out the flesh; add to the bowl. With the back of a fork, smash the avocado until it’s uniformly mashed into a chunky consistency, stirring to combine the garlic, onion and peppers. Sprinkle with lime juice and hot sauce and stir; taste for salt and correct if needed. Fold in the tomatoes and cilantro. Chill under refrigeration until needed, pressing a layer of plastic wrap into the guacamole to keep from oxidizing and turning brown. Serve with tortilla chips.

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments