Kale and Couscous (or Orzo) with Green Garlic Dressing

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While housesitting for my friends a few weeks ago, I took advantage of their awesome vegetable garden to make a few dishes using fresh kale snipped right off the plant. I’m awfully jealous of anyone with a vegetable garden these days — I recently read Barbara Kingsolver’s book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” and I love the idea of growing and eating your own produce and eating “in season” instead of buying something subpar from the grocery store. In fact, when my parents were visiting, we bought four little herb plants so I could attempt to have at least that on hand — cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, rosemary and basil. The cilantro is thriving…we’ll see if I kill everything else. 🙂

So, there was no way I was letting this opportunity pass me by when I had a garden at my fingertips and an open invitation from my friends to pick and eat whatever I wanted. I found this great recipe for kale and couscous with green garlic dressing on the Naturally Ella blog, and it was a perfect fit for my list of ingredients. And while I love Israeli couscous, I switched it up for orzo in my version since I had some on hand in the pantry.

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The flavors in this dish are really fresh and light, with tang from the feta, crunch from the kale and nice acidity from the dressing (I used scallions since I didn’t have green garlic). It’s vegetarian, but it doesn’t feel like it since the chickpeas add a nice meaty texture.

TW’s Tips

  • If you don’t have apple cider vinegar on hand, any will do (white wine, red wine, sherry, etc.)
  • Sub out the couscous for your small pasta/grain of choice — regular couscous, noodles, etc.
  • Buy kale fresh from the farmers market or steal from your friend’s garden

Kale and Couscous (or Orzo) with Green Garlic Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup kale, de-stemmed and shredded
  • ½ cup Israeli couscous, uncooked
  • ½ cup chickpeas (drained, if using canned)
  • ÂĽ cup feta

Dressing:

  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • â…› teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons green garlic (or ÂĽ cup green onions)

Instructions
Place couscous in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook until couscous is tender, 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and drain.
While couscous is cooking, whisk together oil, vinegar, honey, and minced garlic. (You can also whiz the green garlic in the food processor and then add the other dressing ingredients.)

Once couscous is done cooking, toss with kale. Let sit until kale is slightly wilted. Add in dressing, feta and chickpeas. Toss all together and serve. If you want it warm, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Add in chickpeas, cooking for 1-2 minutes until heated through. Add in kale and cook until slightly wilted. Toss with couscous and dressing.

Zucchini and Olive Flatbread

More zucchini! While sometimes it can feel like a chore to figure out how to use an ingredient I have on hand, experimenting with zucchini recipes has been fun (and delicious)! This one for zucchini and olive flatbread was ahhh-mazing.

This is a Giada de Laurentiis recipe, and SO simple you’ll be shocked. The key is good pizza dough, fresh zucchini and quality pecorino romano. I bought my pizza dough at the farmer’s market from an Italian restaurant — SO good — but get the pre-made kind in the freezer section and you’ll be fine. I buy my good, hard cheeses at Costco — they come in big blocks but a cheese like pecorino romano or Parmigiano Reggiano will last you a long time in the fridge. It’s worth it for the quality of the cheese.

I loved the crunch of the super fresh pizza dough, freshness of the zucchini, topped with the melty mozzarella and salty pecorino romano cheese and olives. It’s also great reheated!

TW’s Tips

  • I used kalamata olives instead of black olives — I think either one would be amazing, but the kalamatas added a bit more saltiness and a definite kick. I’m a big kalamata fan, so I loved it.
  • For leftovers, cut the remaining flatbread into single serving slices, wrap in foil and throw in the fridge.

Ingredients

  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 pound pizza dough
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil plus extra, for drizzling
  • 1 large (8 ounce) zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/8-inch slices
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups (4 ounces) shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup (2 1/2 ounces) grated Pecorino Romano
  • 1/2 cup pitted sliced black olives

Directions

Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch circle. With a pastry brush, brush 1 tablespoon of the oil over the dough. Using the tines of a fork, prick the dough all over. Arrange the zucchini slices in a single layer on top of the dough. Drizzle the zucchini with oil.

Bake the dough for 18 to 20 minutes until the edges begin to brown. Remove the bread from the oven, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of oregano, the cheeses, and the olives. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes until the cheeses are melted and bubbly.

Sprinkle the flatbread with the remaining oregano, cut into wedges and serve.

Spaghetti with Summer Squash and Tomatoes

Inspired by my friend Megan’s gift of a fresh zucchini from her garden (jealous!), I found this Tyler Florence recipe for Spaghetti with Summer Squash and Tomatoes and hit the farmer’s market for some more super fresh produce to round out the dish. Oh boy, was it worth it. This pasta is light and fresh, and bursting with great flavors from the veggies — and the fresher you go, the better this will taste. I even got some arugula from the farmer’s market and it was unbelievable — spicy, peppery and the perfect hit in this tasty bowl of pasta.

Roasting all the vegetables instead of sautĂ©ing really make a difference in this recipe. The roasting caramelizes the veggies and also adds more of a nutty taste to them — so much better than a turn in a frying pan, even if it does take a little longer. There are so many vegetables in here that you don’t even feel bad about eating a bowl of pasta!

TW’s Tips

  • Use fresh farmer’s market veggies.
  • Go super al dente on the pasta — I love when pasta has some bite to it, and it makes this even better reheated.
  •  Cut the tomatoes in half if they’re bigger than normal (which you may get since farmer’s market produce isn’t so uniform)
  • Don’t forget the ladle of pasta liquid before you drain!
  • Use lots of fresh cracked black pepper on top, and sprinkle with a little sea salt/kosher salt. Yum!

Spaghetti with Summer Squash and Tomatoes

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 summer squash, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Handful of arugula leaves, chopped
  • 3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound spaghetti

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat for the spaghetti.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the squashes, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and oregano in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and give it all a good toss. Dump that out onto a baking sheet and roast for 10 to 12 minutes, until the squash is tender and caramelized. Scrape the vegetables into a large pasta bowl and cover with a plate to keep everything warm.

The pasta water should be boiling by now. Add the spaghetti and stir to separate the strands. Cook for 8 to 9 minutes, until al dente.

To finish, scoop out about 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water, drain the pasta, and toss gently with the roasted vegetables. Add the pasta water if needed. Toss with the arugula and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Roasted-Potato Fennel Soup

I’ve been in a soup mood lately, and I had some leftover potatoes from my parents’ visit that I had no idea what to do with (I don’t each much potato), and so…potato soup it was. It was also a cold, dreary day, which made this recipe from Barefoot Contessa sound very homey and warm and delicious.

And it was! The soup came out creamy and thick, with a ton of great potato flavor. You keep the skins on the potatoes (makes it super easy), and get such a nice earthy taste from it. And the roasting does good things for the flavor, opposed to the old boiling route. Note: this is NOT your typical cheesy potato soup that doesn’t even taste like potato. And I think that’s a good thing…even though I’ve never seen a cheese I didn’t like. It really tastes like potato soup — and while it’s filling and creamy, you don’t feel like you ate a block of cheese afterward. Which is always nice.

I love fennel, and in this recipe, it gives the soup a nice flavor undertone — not licorice-y at all, just a good contrast. I’d serve this by the cup (opposed to by the bowl) since it is pretty rich. It’d be perfect with a nice salad or alongside half a sandwich for lunch.

TW’s Tips

  • I halved this recipe, and it was still a LOT of soup. I froze two quart-size bags of it because there was no way I was eating potato soup for two weeks.
  • If you’ve never cut up fennel before, make sure you quarter the bulb and cut out the tough core in the middle.
  • To make this vegetarian, use vegetable stock instead of chicken.
  • Instead of pureeing in a food processor, I used my immersion blender and pureed it right in the pot. Brilliant!
  • I topped the bowls with some chopped fennel fronds.
Enjoy!

Ingredients (I halved the recipe)

  • 4 lbs red potatoes, unpeeled and quartered
  • ÂĽ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 4 cups yellow onions, about 2
  • 4 cups fennel bulbs, about 2
  • 3 quarts chicken stock or 3 quarts vegetable stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with 1/4 cup olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, until cooked through.

Saute the chopped onions and chopped fennel with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large stockpot on medium heat until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the roasted potatoes (including scrapings from the pan) and the stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, until all the vegetables are very soft. Add the heavy cream and allow the soup to cool slightly.

Puree the soup in batches in a food processor or food mill, leaving some chunks. Taste for salt and pepper. Reheat and serve hot.

Zucchini, Poblano and Ricotta Quesadillas with Guacamole and Black Bean Salsa

This is one of my favorite quesadillas and favorite vegetarian meals ever. It’s definitely not your traditional quesadilla. Dig it: Zucchini, Poblano and Ricotta Quesadillas.

The recipe comes from my Food Network Kitchens Favorite Recipes cookbook. Check out the filling below: poblano peppers add smoky heat, zucchini dusted with coriander adds a Middle Eastern flair, and the cheese — ricotta mixed with jalapeno, scallions, lime zest and cilantro — kicks in some more zip, a nice creaminess, plus freshness from the lime, cilantro and scallions.

So, not only are these full of flavor, they’re also pretty healthy! Served with fresh guacamole (yum!) and a black bean salsa, and you can’t go wrong.

The killer guacamole (recipe below) is also from my Food Network cookbook — it’s super chunky, spicy and fresh with a hit of garlic. Absolutely delicious. I’d never had guacamole until I came to California, and these days it (or simply avocado) will sell me on a recipe in a second.

The black bean salsa is a Rachael Ray. It’s smoky, hearty and has a nice spice to it from jalapenos. Sun-dried tomatoes add an unexpected, sweet tang.

TW’s Tips

  • Peeling the skin off charred poblano peppers is easier said than done. Char them as much as you can and use a paper towel to brush off the skin (it’s easier than trying to peel it).
  • If you’re making this for company, it’s easy to make the filling ahead of time and just assemble and fry up the quesadillas that day. Just nuke the filling a little bit to warm it up.
  • For the guac, leave it chunky — just mash it up slightly. It’s awesome to get a real nice piece of avocado in a bite of your quesadilla.
  • For the black bean salsa, I cut back on the barbecue sauce (I used about 1/4 cup), but next time, I might just use a couple of tablespoons. It overpowered the flavor of the beans a bit.
You’ve got to try this one!

Zucchini, Poblano and Ricotta Quesadillas

Ingredients

1 teaspoon coriander seeds
3 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise about 1/3 inch thick
3 poblano chiles, stemmed, halved and seeded
Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fresh ricotta (see tip below)
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
2 scallions, sliced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (leave in seeds for extra heat)
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
4 12-inch flour tortillas
4 lime wedges

**Ricotta tip: you can find fresh ricotta at specialty cheese shops, or buy the ricotta in the tub at the grocery store and put it in a coffee filter-lined strainer over a bowl and refrigerate at least a couple of hours or overnight to drain off the excess moisture.

Prepare an outdoor grill with a medium-hot fire (grill pan works too).

Lightly brush zucchini and poblanos with olive oil with grill, turning as needed, until tender and lightly charred, about 4-6 minutes. Season the zucchini with coriander, salt and black pepper. Cut into bite size chunks and set aside to cool slightly. Peel skin from poblanos and thinly slice. (Peeling the skin is easier if it is charred. It will start to pull away from the pepper and you can peel it with your fingers. If you can’t get all of it off, don’t worry about it.)

Mix the ricotta, cilantro, scallions, jalapeno, lime zest, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Lay out the tortillas and spread one-quarter of the cheese mixture over half of each tortilla, leaving about a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Divide the grilled vegetables among the tortillas and fold tortillas in half. Brush lightly with oil, sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and grill on both sides until the cheese warms and the outside is golden brown, about 2 minutes.

Place each quesadilla on a plate, scatter with cilantro leaves and serve with lime wedges and salsa, guacamole and sour cream.

Guacamole

Ingredients

  • 3 ripe Hass avocados
  • 1/4 medium red onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 to 2 jalapeno or serrano chiles (with seeds for more heat, without seeds for less), stemmed and minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, diced
  • Juice of one lime (about 2 tablespoons)

Directions

Smash the garlic cloves, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt, and, with the side of a large knife, mash and smear the mixture to a coarse paste. Put in a bowl with onion.

Cut the avocados in half, remove the pits, and score the flesh with a knife. Scoop the flesh out of their shells into the bowl with the onion.

Mix the tomatoes, cilantro, chiles, lime juice, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt with the avocados with a rubber spatula or large fork until just combined, keeping the guacamole chunky. Serve immediately with tortilla chips.

Black Bean Salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, chopped
  • 1/2 cup smoky barbecue sauce (I use less)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Add a turn of EVOO to a skillet and add the onions, garlic and jalapeño pepper; sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add beans and corn to the pan. Stir in chopped tomatoes and barbecue sauce, then season salsa with salt and pepper. Transfer warm salsa to a serving dish.