Category Archives: Vegetable Dishes

Courgette & Orzo Bake or Baked Zucchini & Orzo

Zucchini & Orzo bake

With the holiday weekend approaching, it’s time to start making those grocery shopping lists to prepare for the barbecue or whatever plans are on tap.  Although I love the stand-bys like potato salad and s’mores, sometimes I feel like we fall into the usual rut of side dishes.  With so much fresh produce coming into season, it seemed appropriate to try to find something new to make.

summer squashSummer Squash

BBC Good Food Magazine, which is one of my reliable recipe resources, had a whole section of courgette (zucchini) dishes in the June issue.  One of them that caught my eye was this Courgette & Orzo Bake.  Fortunately, the Greenmarket has already begun to showcase this summer’s crop of squash, so the basic ingredient wasn’t too difficult to find in every shape and size.  From there, it was really just a matter of prepping everything and throwing it all together in a baking pan (I used a Pyrex one) to cook together.

Grated ZucchiniGrating the Zucchini by hand is tedious but worth it

OnionsSee my tutorial on “How to Chop an Onion

white wineI think that’s just enough wine left for this dish

Vegetable StockYes, it is store-bought stock.  I don’t usually make my own.

Barilla OrzoYep – just go on and dump the whole box of Orzo into the pan

Pre-baked Zucchini & OrzoI ended up using a ladle to transfer the mixture from stovetop pan to baking dish

oven readyOven-ready.  Not to worry, all of that liquid will be absorbed into the dish during the baking process.

Ready for the ovenThe last 10 minutes when adding breadcrumbs and extra Parmesan

Finished dishHere’s the result – Courgette & Orzo Bake or Baked Zucchini & Orzo

This dish has lots of great flavor with the freshness of the in-season zucchini (or courgettes), the nuttiness of the Parmesan, the crisp of the breadcrumbs, and the al dente pasta.  I think that next time, I would follow what one of the on-line commenters said and add pine nuts at that last 10-minute mark to add some extra heartiness to the dish.  I would also sprinkle some chopped basil on top after it comes out of the oven for an additional herbal punch.

These summertime flavors would be wonderful with grilled chicken or burgers or, what really came to mind for me, lamb.  It is fine served hot but even room temperature it would make a splendid side dish for any summer cookout.  I think this one will go it to the recipe “keeper” file.

Buon appetito!

Insalata di rucola con funghi e grana padano (Arugula Salad with Mushrooms and Grana Padano)

It’s been a massively busy few weeks with lots of food events taking place in New York plus a few other things going on.  I’ve been churning out articles for a couple of sites which means I’ve kind of been neglecting things here.  Not being around the apartment much, I’ve been turning to some simple but delicious recipes from my Italian days to keep myself fed between activities.  This Insalata di rucola con funghi e grana padano (Arugula Salad with Mushrooms and Grana Padano) has a bit of snap and bite to it and is the perfect kick-off to a great meal or can stand as a light lunch or dinner all by itself on a hot summer’s day.

Arugula from the Greenmarket

I first had this salad when I was a student in Bologna, Italy.  Scaccomatto, one of the restaurants that we would treat ourselves to sometimes, had many traditional dishes on the menu but, boldly for this town, often had more imaginative fare, all made with top-quality ingredients.  When I was last there, they had licorice pasta, probably made in-house as I have yet to locate it elsewhere, which enthralled my sister-in-law.  It was served with seafood and was delicious.

Cremini mushrooms from the same market

Scaccomatto has always had a special place in my heart and food memories because of that and is one of the places that I try to get to when I’ve been able to return to that town.  In this salad, which I copied from what I remember eating at the restaurant, the peppery arugula (the small-leafed Italian variety) is combined with very thinly sliced, meaty cremini mushrooms and delicate shavings of creamy, slightly sharp grana padano.  Rectangular, soft, barely crisp croutons drizzled with olive oil decorate the side of the plate.  Actually, come to think of it, the bread was probably fried in the olive oil.  Whatever the case, I think I managed to come up with a good approximation of it.

Bread from Hot Bread Kitchen

Insalata di rucola con funghi e grana padano (Arugula Salad with Mushrooms and Grana Padano)

Serving Size: 2 people (easily scaleable)

Prep Time: 15 minutes


2 slices hearty Country Bread

2 cups Arugula (Italian-style), approximately

1 cup Cremini mushrooms very thinly sliced

12-14 shavings Grana Padano cheese

1/2 tsp. Lemon juice, freshly-squeezed

1 tsp. top-quality Italian Olive Oil

2 grinds of Black Pepper (or 1/2 pinch)

2 pinches of Salt

1 clove Garlic

extra Olive Oil for drizzling

Grana Padano


Toast bread in toaster or in broiler.  While bread is cooking, toss together arugula and mushrooms with lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl.  Season with pepper and 1 pinch of the salt.  Divide salad between two plates making sure to have an even distribution of mushrooms and arugula on each.

Lay strips of the cheese on top of the salad, again dividing them equally.  When the bread is toasted, rub a garlic clove cut in half over one side of the bread.  Drizzle with a little bit more of the olive oil and sprinkle some of the remaining salt  on top of the toasted bread and place one slice on each plate.  Serve immediately.

Buon appetito!

Kitchen Witch Tip:

Many of the key ingredients for this dish came from the Union Square Greenmarket.  The arugula is from Mountain Sweet Berry Farm, the mushrooms are from Bulich Mushroom Farm, and the bread is from Hot Bread Kitchen.


Sweet Potato Cakes from Ottolenghi’s “Plenty”

Sweet Potato Cakes from Plenty

Thank you so much to @VegBoxDiary for pointing out this wonderful recipe for Sweet Potato Cakes from Yotam Ottolenghi’s recent cookbook “Plenty.” This book is filled with so many gorgeous and delicious-sounding things to make that I had no idea where to start. She read my tweets about his book signing in New York and reached out to me to give me a hint as to where to begin.

Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

After I made the Endive with Sweet Potatoes, Bacon, Chives, and Sour Cream a week ago, I still had one uncooked sweet potato left over.  So, I cracked open “Plenty” and started reading the directions.  During the summer months, I tend to eat more vegetarian anyway, so this seemed like a perfect dish to make for a quick snack or, as it ended up being, lunch.  I used one large sweet potato and cut the recipe in half.  This gave me 8 potato cakes (note that I saved half of them to eat later).

Sweet Potato Cakes Cooking

Not having any fresh red chili available, as they can be a bit difficult to find, I substituted a pinch of dried red chili flakes.  This didn’t give it quite the kick that I can imagine the fresh pepper would do, but it had a wonderful flavor all the same.  Using butter, with a splash of olive oil, gave the cakes a nicely crisp exterior that contrasted with their soft interior, like with pancakes or latkes.  The yogurt dip was cool and creamy with a pop of tartness that gave the dish a bit of zing.

Sweet Potato Cakes with Yogurt Dip

I can totally see why these were a favorite cafe snack during Ottolenghi’s university days.  They even tasted good reheated and eaten the next day.  If I didn’t have to make them myself in order to have them, I could see them as an integral part of my regular diet, too!

Buon appetito!

This dish is in Ottolenghi’s cookbook “Plenty,” which has lots of wonderful-sound recipes so I encourage you to add it to your collection.  I had the pleasure of eating at his Notting Hill restaurant when I was in London earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed it.  For this recipe, please visit this link to the article in the Guardian UK where it was published in 2007.

Endive with Sweet Potatoes, Bacon, Chives, and Sour Cream

Endive with Sweet Potatoes, Bacon, Chives, and Sour Cream

One of the sponsors at the Eat, Write, Retreat conference I attended last month in Washington, DC, was the Discover Endive! folks.  At the reception that opened this weekend event, they served tasty bites of Endive with Sweet Potatoes, Bacon, Chives, and Sour Cream.  These were a delicious balance of crunchy, chewy, sweet, salty, meaty, and creamy.  With the hand-held leaf serving as an edible platter, they were a perfectly-sized nibble and easy-to-serve appetizer.

I was interested in possibly trying to make these at home, as I thought they would be a great snack with cocktails or, as we’re coming into that season, a rooftop drinks gathering.  It turns out that Souffle Bombay made this one night for her husband when she was back at home.  I also found another recipe on Fine Cooking.  I decided to do a mash-up of both recipes plus added my own little twist to come up with this version.

Endive with Sweet Potatoes, Bacon, Chives, and Sour Cream

Serving size: 8-10 spears, depending upon size

Prep time: 20 minutes


8 Endive Spears

1 medium Sweet Potato

2-3 pieces of Bacon

1-2 tsp Bacon Fat (from cooked bacon)

1 pinch Cayenne Pepper

1 pinch Salt

1 pinch Black Pepper

2 Tbsp. Sour Cream

1 Tbsp. snipped, fresh Chives


Take one endive, wash it, and break off the outer brown leaves (if any).  Break off 8 fresh leaves and arrange in a circle on a large plate or platter.

Steam sweet potato in microwave oven on baked potato setting.  Turn potato halfway through the cycle to cook evenly.  Put potato to one side to cool until you can peel it.  Once it has cooled, cut into 1/4-inch cubes.

In the meantime, cut bacon into 1/2-inch pieces.  Cook until crisp.  Remove bacon from pan and place on paper towel to cool.  Pour off all of the bacon fat except for about 1 tsp. and return the pan to the stove with the heat on low.

Put cubed sweet potatoes into the pan and cook gently in the bacon fat (add fat extra if needed) for 1-2 minutes until the pieces start to brown slightly.  Add the bacon back into the pan and toss together.  Put in the cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper and stir to combine.

Place one large spoonful of the sweet potato-bacon mixture on each of the spears, spreading most of it towards the stem end.  Put one dollop of sour cream in the center of each spear and sprinkle with the chives.  Enjoy!

Buon appetito!

Kitchen Witch Tip:

I had leftovers of the sweet potato-bacon mixture, so I decided to make them into a fritatta for breakfast this morning.  Just follow your favorite recipe, add some cheese, and garnish with sour cream and chives for a colorful and different spin on your morning meal and a delicious start to your day.

Asparagus and Scrambled Eggs with Herb Butter

If you don’t like using really great, European-style butter as a flavoring and key component in a dish, you should click away now.  If you don’t have a fear of la beurre, then this is a recipe for you.  I’d originally thought of it as a Mother’s Day Brunch dish, hence the hearts, but it could just as well be a weeknight supper or anytime meal, it is so easy to put together.

Asparagus are now really in season in New York, as are eggs (they have great flavor and color in the springtime), so this is a perfect meal to make at this time of year.  Fluffy, golden eggs, given extra flavor due to the herb butter, just melt in your mouth.  The puff pastry is an extra decorative touch that also gives a crunchy and light side note to the creaminess of the eggs and the woodsiness of the asparagus.  Coating the vegetables in the same seasoning as the eggs pulls the dish together even more tightly.

The compound butter that is a component of this recipe is simple to make and freezes really well.  I make a bit extra and keep it in my freezer to add an additional pop of flavor to grilled vegetables or meats.  The hearts were made using my regular cookie cutters, which is another way to consider a kitchen item that might usually just sit in a cabinet waiting for that holiday to be used each year.  For me, this was sort of a fun dish to make, as it brought together so many wonderful individual ingredients, much like getting friends who have never met each other around the table for a great meal and good conversations.

Asparagus and Scrambled Eggs with Herb Butter

Serving Size: 2 portions

Prep Time: 30 minutes


1 sheet Puff Pastry (I used 1/2 sheet Dufours)

2 Tbsp good-quality unsalted butter (like President), softened to room temperature

2 tsp minced, fresh Tarragon

1 tsp minced Shallot

3/4 tsp Salt (1/2 plus 1/4)

1 pinch ground black Pepper

12-14 Asparagus spears

3 large Eggs

1 tsp. cream, milk or water (your preference)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Using cookie cutter (heart shape optional) or knife cut out 4 pieces of the puff pastry (e.g., 4 hearts, 4 clovers, 4 triangles, 4 squares, etc.).  Place on parchment paper or silicone sheet and bake on tray for 25 minutes, until puffed up and light golden brown.  (I did not roll out the pastry or brush it with anything.  I just let it thaw a bit and then cut out the hearts.  This made them extra poofy when they cooked, as you can see in the end photo.  For fun, I also baked the cut out pastry portion to snack on later.)

Put a saucepan of water on to boil.  While the pastry is cooking and the water is boiling, prepare the butter mixture in a bowl.  Cream [mix] together the softened butter, tarragon, shallot, 1/4 tsp salt, and pepper.  Set aside.

Prep the asparagus.  I’m a big fan of the bend-until-the-end-snaps method.  You can also peel the ends until you get to a tender part, if that is your preference.  Once the saucepan of water is boiling, add 1/2 tsp. salt.  Add the asparagus to the water.  Let them cook for about 3 minutes, until they are barely fork-tender (i.e., a fork just goes through them all the way).  Remove them from the water and set them on a plate.  It doesn’t matter if they get a bit cool.

In a bowl, crack the eggs and beat them lightly with a fork.  Add the cream, milk or water and beat a bit more to incorporate the extra liquid.  Check on the puff pastry.  By this time, it should have risen at least a bit.  At 7 minutes until the time the pastry should have finished cooking, put 2 tsp. of the herbed butter into a non-stick skillet and turn the heat on the stove to let it melt.

Once the butter has melted and the shallots start to sizzle a bit, add the cooked asparagus to the butter.  Toss the asparagus in the butter mixture for 1 minute to coat the asparagus and to reheat them.  Divide the asparagus among 2 plates and cover them with foil to keep warm.

Check on the puff pastry.  If they are completely puffed up and the tops are light golden brown, remove them from the oven and leave them on the baking tray.

In the same skillet in which you cooked the asparagus, melt an additional 2 tsp to 1 Tbsp of herbed butter (or even just the rest of it, depending upon how you feel).  Pour the eggs into the butter when it is melted and foamy.  As the eggs start to cook, push them around and around the skillet gently with a rubber spatula so that the don’t sit at any point in the pan just completely cooking in one place (you are moving them around so that they stay light and fluffy).  At the point where they are still so slightly wet, turn off the heat.  The residual heat will continue to cook the eggs.

Divide the eggs between the two plates with the asparagus on them and place two of the hearts/puff pastry pieces on each of the plates.  Season with extra salt, pepper, and chopped fresh tarragon as preferred.

Buon appetito!

Valentine’s Day Special Dinner – Roast Chicken, Potato Gratin, and Apple Tart

Sometimes I wonder if we are so focused on Valentine’s Day as a particular day that we forget to recognize all those little things that we do throughout the year to show our affection and regard for the people whom welove.  Because I talk about on food and eating in my blog, this usually manifests itself in cooking a special meal or baking a little treat that you know someone likes.  It can even be about fixing dinner and cleaning upafterwards some evening when you know that your sweetie has had a roughday.  When I lived in the UK many years ago, having a roommate make an extra mug of very strong, sweet, milky teafor you when he/she was making his/her own mug was akin to saying, “I know today was a bad one, but it will get better.”

These are the sorts of pick-me-ups that keep us going in life, especially during the harder moments.  When folks ask me, then, what I think is a good meal for Valentine’s Day, I often recommend the straightforward, simpler dishes, in keeping with the wintry season during which the day falls.  A hearty roast chicken can make a house smell like home.  For my tastebuds and stomach, nothing is better than serving a gooey, cheesy, creamy potato dish alongside it.  Then, have something green (broccoli, broccolini, spinach, kale, it doesn’t really matter).  For dessert, I like to pick something that I can make, preferably in advance, that doesn’t take a lot of time.
One of these no-fail, family-favorite desserts is an AppleTart Tatin recipe that I found in an English cooking magazine years ago. When my sister was pregnant with my niece, all she wanted was rich, dairy-laden food.  She isn’t generally one of those folks who craves much of anything, that I’ve ever known.  In fact, she isn’t one of those folks who really lives to eat or who focuses all that much on food things.  In addition, her husband is lactose intolerant so they don’t keep very much diary in the house, and she doesn’t often get to eat some of the cream- or milk-based dishes that our mother used to make.
The other question I’m often asked is how I time things to all come out together.  I have to confess that some if it is really just practice and having made the same dishes over and over again.  Some of it is reading through all the recipes and actually mapping out the sequence of events,like with our family holiday dinner. With a little bit of pre-planning and timing, this can be pulled together on a weeknight, whether it is Valentine’s Day or not.  I’ve added a possible sequence of events (single oven version) as this post’s Kitchen Witch Tip.
My exact recollection is a little bit fuzzy, but I think that I managed to swing it perfectly that evening when my sister came to visit my apartment, despite the fact that I had been at work all day.  It must have been a particularly delicious memory because this meal came up in a conversation between the two of us just the other week.  It is still a sentimental remembrance for both of us: of affection and caring between two siblings and love and happiness for the life that was about to come into the world.
Buon appetito!
Thyme Roasted Chicken with Gravy
For chicken:
3.5 lb. chicken, preferably organic
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
½ tsp. olive oil, plus more for outside of chicken
1 tsp. thyme leaves, chopped
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ whole lemon
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 thyme springs
For gravy:
drippings from roasted chicken
¼ c. onion, finely chopped
garlic cloves from roasted chicken, peeled
2 sprigs thyme (fresh)
¼ c. dry white wine
juice of ¼ lemon
2 tsp. unsalted butter
2 tsp. flour
1 c. chicken stock
¼ tsp. salt
1 pinch black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remove gizzards, etc. from inside of chicken.  Place chicken on a rack in a roasting pan.  Put lemon,garlic cloves, and whole thyme springs into the cavity of the chicken.
An improvised rack, made out of aluminum foil
Mix together (mash) minced garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil,thyme, and butter.  Gently lift up the skin of the chicken breasts and slather the butter mixture between the skin and the meat.  Make a small cut in the skin on the legs and put butter between the skin and the meat of the legs.
Rub olive oil into the outside of the skin of the chicken.  Make sure to coat the whole exterior of the bird with the oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.  Put in the oven for 10 minutes.  After that, turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for about 1 hour more, until a meat thermometer registers on the poultry setting (consult All Recipes for additional cooking times for larger chickens).  You might need to cook it for another 10-15 minutes after the hour mark, but let the thermometer guide you on that.
Remove chicken from the roasting pan, set on serving platter, and cover with foil. Roasting pan should be the type that can be placed on a stovetop burner.  Put pan on burner over low heat.  Add onion and garlic to the pan and mash the garlic into small pieces with the back of a fork.  Cook for 2 minutes.
Lots of great drippings to make gravy
Add in thyme sprigs and wine and let cook until the wine has reduced by one-half.  Add lemon juice and stir together.  Mash together butter and flour and whisk into the liquid in the pan until it is combined thoroughly.  Gradually add in chicken stock and cook until the mixture is rich and thick.  Add salt and pepper and adjust seasoning to taste.  Strain gravy(or not, depending upon your taste) and serve hot with the chicken (see photo above of plated meal).
Cheesy Potato Gratin
Butter (or butter wrapper), to grease the baking pan
½ c. whole milk
½ c. heavy cream
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 pinch salt
1 pinch black pepper
2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 thyme springs
2 large Russet potatoes, sliced thinly (I use a mandoline)
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. thyme leaves
¼ c. grated Gruyère or Comté cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Butter small casserole dish (9 x5.5-inches or smaller).  In microwaveable measuring cup, combine the milk, cream nutmeg, salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme springs (i.e., the next 7 ingredients), and heat in microwave oven on high for a minute or on the beverage setting.  Remove from oven and cover to let mixture steep for a few minutes.
In the meantime, start layering the potatoes into the buttered baking dish.  They should overlap slightly at the edges.  Putabout ¼ of the potatoes in the dish. Then, pour about ¼ c. of the liquid through a strainer or sieve over the potatoes.  The liquid should just come up to just below the top layer of potatoes.  Sprinkle top layer of potatoes with 1 pinch each of nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
Continue to layer the potatoes and to pour the liquid into the dish in the same manner for two more times, seasoning each layer with 1 pinch each of nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Put one more layer of potatoes in the dish and season with 1 pinch each of nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Then, sprinkle the thyme leaves over the top of the potatoes and cover it with the grated cheese.  For this layer, delicately spoon over the strained liquid until it comes just below the cheese layer of the dish.  You might still have some liquid left, which you can discard or save for another use.
Cover dish with aluminum foil.  Place in oven to cook for 30 minutes.  Uncover the dish, place it on the top rack of the oven (if not already there), and cook for 15 minutes more to allow the top to get bubbly and golden brown. Remove from oven.  Allow it to sit for at least 5 minutes before trying to cut it into wedges toserve.  Be careful, as this dish will be piping hot.
This recipe hasn’t been uploaded online as far as I cantell, so this is the link to where it was first published on my website.  I have used MacIntosh and Jonagold apples, both with great success. Granny Smiths would be too tart and Golden and Red Delicious just don’t really stand up in this recipe.  It is also definitely worth it to indulge in real butter puff pastry if you have access to it.
Kitchen Witch Tip
The best thing to do is to make the Apple Tarte Tatin in advance.  That way, it can be put back in the oven to reheat while you are eating dinner.  The first task is to prep and cook the Chicken.  While the Chicken is cooking, prep the Potato Gratin. Thirty minutes before the Chicken is due to come out of the oven, put the Potato Gratin in on a bottom rack to cook, covered.
After you remove the Chicken from the oven, uncover the Potatoes and move them to the top oven rack to continue cooking and so that the top can brown.  While the Potatoes finish cooking, make the Gravy and put the Vegetables on the stovetop to cook.  The Gravy, Vegetables, and Potatoes should all finish at about the same time.  The resting time for the Potatoes can take place while you are plating up the Chicken and the rest of the food.  Turn the oven off and put the Apple Tarte Tatin in the ovento warm up for dessert (this doesn’t have to be served hot, but it is nice to have it a bit warm).
Buon appetito!