The end of summer’s harvest approaches, welcoming in a new wave of bounty; this week, it means an abundance of dirt cheap, gorgeous graffiti eggplant for making baba ganoush. When I bought a handful of peppers, a bag full of scuppernongs, and a large basket of graffiti eggplant for only $5 from a local farm stand, I knew the creamy eggplant dish was in my future!
What Is Graffiti Eggplant?
A smaller, white-and-purple-marbled version of traditional eggplant common at most grocery stores, this varietal is known to be less bitter than its solid purple cousin, which has thicker skin and is about twice the size. Some people even describe its flavor as fruitlike and suggest that steps like removing the skin or salting the eggplant before cooking are unnecessary given these sweet, tender characteristics. This sightly vegetable originates from the Mediterranean but grows well in most warm climates.
Health Benefits of Eggplant
Graffiti eggplant is rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, manganese, and folate. Additionallyy, in accordance with traditional Ayurvedic medicine, eggplant is prescribed as a means of fighting diabetes. (Eggplant contains high concentrations of polyphenols, which help the body process sugar.)
Eggplant is, on its own, a low-calorie food. Its high fiber content makes it a great addition to any diet!
Also, eggplant is high in antioxidants. This helps to prevent cancer and heart disease.
Ways To Cook Eggplant
If you, like me, find yourself with an abundance of eggplants, you may be looking for cooking inspiration! Happily, eggplant varietals are interchangeable in most recipes. When cooked, eggplant takes on a creamy texture. It absorbs neighboring flavors and seasonings very well. Here are some ways to use up your eggplant:
Clearly, there’s no shortage of ways you can use this amazing vegetable! If you want further eggplant inspiration, look up some Mediterranean, Indian, or Middle Eastern recipes. Eggplant has a rich history in the cuisines of these cultures.
What is Baba Ganoush and Where Is It From?
Simply put, baba ganoush is a creamy eggplant dish blended with garlic, olive oil, lemon, and tahini. Sometimes spelled “baba ganouj,” this Levantine appetizer pairs well with pita bread for dipping.
Primarily eaten as a spread, dip, or sauce, this delicious condiment hails from Lebanon. There are variants of baba ganoush in many other cuisines, including Ethiopian, Armenian, and Israeli.
How to Eat This Spicy Eggplant Dip
Think of baba ganoush as a cousin to hummus. Slather it into a veggie sandwich or drop it over your salad greens. Alternatively, dip rustic bread, pita wedges, crackers, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli, or other veggies into this silky smooth dip.
Additionally, baba ganoush makes a great ingredient on any charcuterie board!
Is Baba Ganoush Vegetarian?
Yes! Baba ganoush contains no animal products, so it’s even considered vegan!
Is Baba Ganoush Healthy?
Yes. Baba ganoush boasts a modest amount natural fats from olive oil. There is also a good amount of nutrient-rich sesame seeds from the tahini. These contribute anti-inflammatory properties as well as vitamins and minerals.
Of course, the real star of the show is eggplant. Since the eggplant roasts in the skin which is later removed, it absorbs a relatively low amount of oil in the cooking process. This means the eggplant is even healthier than cubed roasted eggplant. This is about as healthy as eggplant gets.
So, this fiber-rich, filling dish is incredibly satisfying and healthy! (And yes, baba ganoush is even keto-friendly!)
Simple Spicy Baba Ganoush
One great aspect of this recipe is its wonderful simplicity! Waiting for your eggplants to roast is the hardest part.
Pierce the skin of your eggplants with a fork like you would a baked potato. Drizzle with oil and roast.
I roasted my eggplants for around an hour. They caramelized beautifully in the oven!
Allow the eggplants to cool until you can handle them. Use a knife and spoon to separate the tender roasted flesh from the skin. Drain over a fine mesh sieve to remove any excess moisture.
Simply add all your ingredients to a food processor and blitz until smooth and creamy!
It’s as easy as that! I plated mine with some sumac, olive oil, and sheep’s milk feta. Yum!
A perfect summer treat! 🙂
Simple Spicy Baban Ganoush
Fresh serrano pepper gives this take on a traditional recipe a spicy flavor boost! Serve with pita, chips, crackers, or veggies!
3.5-4poundseggplants(I used 7 small graffiti eggplants, but 2 standard eggplants will do)
1small serrano pepper, stemmed and seeds removed
2Tbspfreshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbspolive oil, for garnishoptional
1 ozfeta cheese, for garnishoptional
dash of sumac, for garnishoptional
Preheat oven to 425°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Wash and pat dry the eggplants. Pierce all over with a fork like you would a roasted potato. Drizzle with olive oil, and roll in oil to coat. Roast for an hour to an hour and half, or until eggplants are tender and collapsing.
Allow eggplant to cool to room temperature. Using a knife and spoon, cut the eggplants in half and scoop flesh out, discarding the skins. Place eggplant pulp in a fine mesh sieve over a medium-sized bowl and allow to drain for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, remove the seeds and stem from your serrano and set the pepper aside. Crush garlic with the flat side of a knife and discard the skin. Juice the lemon and set aside.
Place drained eggplant, garlic, serrano, lemon juice, and salt in a food processor or blender and blitz until smooth and creamy.
Plate with a drizzle of olive oil, a dash of sumac, and feta cheese crumbles. Serve immediately. Keeps up to 4 days in the fridge in an air tight container.
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Summer harvest means an array of sweet and spicy peppers just perfect for flavoring braised pork butt. All a good hunk of meat needs is a few aromatics, quality stock, and time to turn into tender braised shreds just askin’ to be layered into a tortilla with a squeeze of lime. (Add some raw veggies for crunch and top with fresh herbs for best results.)
Let’s take a look at what makes this chunk of meat so special!
What is Pork Butt?
My boyfriend and I received a hunk of pork labeled “pork butt” in our most recent Butcher Box. I stood over the freezer with the massive chunk of meat in my hands, staring at the sticker on the plastic as somewhere in the catalogue of my cooking knowledge, dim recollections started bubbling towards my consciousness. Somewhere, somehow, at some point along my foodie journey, I remembered that pork butt is not in fact a pig’s butt.
We’ve all had ham, right? Well isn’t ham from the hindquarters of a pig? A quick Google search confirmed this.
Boom. Confirmed. Ham = rump. So why didn’t the massive slab of meat in my hands (which looked nothing like a ham, by the way) say “ham” if it was, in fact, from a pig’s butt?
Deep in the recesses of my brain, memories continued to stir, leading me to ask:
Are pork butt and pork shoulder the same thing?
I googled diagrams of pork cuts. Let’s just say humans have certainly figured out how to get the very most out of the animal.
There it is: Boston butt, clearly distinct from ham!
But to make matters even more confusing, continued Googling revealed that Boston butt is also sometimes called Boston shoulder. Naturally, this lead to further questioning…
As you can see in this diagram from The Spruce, the Boston butt sits just above the picnic shoulder on the pig.
Why is the Boston Butt Called the Boston Butt?
So, if the Boston butt doesn’t come from anywhere near the animal’s rump, why is it called a “butt”?!
As is true of many mysteries, the answer is rooted in history. In colonial New England during America’s fledgling years, butchers used to pack inexpensive cuts of shoulder meat into barrels, called “butts.” Used for transporting their wares across New England, the contents of these barrels became known as “pork butts,” the name we still call some shoulder meat today.
So yes, pork butt and pork shoulder, Boston butt and Boston shoulder, are all referring to the same cut of meat.
Primal Cuts of Pork
As you saw in the second diagram above (which is not even a complete breakdown of every cut of pork), we parse out many pieces of meat from a single pig.
First, however, a butcher must make several initial cuts, called primal cuts. These are shoulder, loin, belly, and hind leg cuts.
From there, an experienced butcher will continue to cut out pieces we know and love, like spare ribs, tenderloin, and bacon.
What Makes Certain Cuts of Meat More Expensive Than Others?
There are several factors in play when determining the value of a price of meat. These include but are not limited to:
Another influential factor is supply and demand. For example, Bacon is rich in fat marbling, inherently tender because of its cut, and also happens to be extremely flavorful. It is also simple to prepare because of these positive characteristics. I don’t think I’m breaking any new ground here when I say that these are the reasons why bacon is so popular. In short, it’s truly delicious.
What this means for the market, however, is that bacon prices range from $6.99 for 16 ounces to $17.50 for the same weight. Bacon quality ranges from the cheapest money to buy to the most luxuriously-seasoned, thick-cut bacon available. Unless we collectively undergo a radical cultural shift around the cuts of meat we love, there will always be a market for bacon.
Flank steak is an example of a cut of meat that has had its reputation revamped. Years ago, flank steak was dirt cheap. Flank steak is a very lean cut on the cow that generally has little fat marbling. If handled poorly, this cut of meat can be tough and flavorless.
From this example, we can see that cuts of meat we value culturally can shift. So who knows: maybe someday we will be inviting neighbors over for grilled pig’s feet!
How to Prepare Lean Cuts of Meat
There are several things to consider when you work with a lean cut of meat. When a cut of meat has little marbling, that means it will tend towards toughness and may be low on flavor.
Fortunately, there are certain tricks you can employ in order to make the most out of your lean cut of meat. Here are some ideas to consider:
Marinate your meat. Marinating your meat in acid or vinaigrette helps to tenderize it before the cooking process. Lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and apple cider vinegar are all great bases for marinades. Don’t forget to add a little honey to balance your flavors–honey is also acidic!
Use a meat mallet. Physically tenderizing your tough cuts with a meat mallet or rolling pin helps to break down thick muscle fibers.
Allow your meat to come to room temperature beforecooking. This will help the meat to cook more evenly, especially for bone-in cuts. More control over your meat temperature means more control over moisture and overall “done-ness”.
Rest your meat after you cook it. This helps restore the natural juices in the meat by allowing them to redistribute around the whole cut, rather than spilling out under your knife once you start cutting. A general rule is, rest for five minutes per inch of thickness.
Cook lean cuts low and slow. Slow-roasting lean cuts can reduce the risk of “shocking” the meat or causing unnecessary loss of moisture. This is especially true for braising, during which process the meat is completely submerged in tasty cooking liquid like broth or wine.
Cook meat to the right internal temperature. It may seem obvious, but overcooking your meat highlights any negative characteristics, like toughness and dryness, which can be avoided by cooking it on the rarer side.
Cut against the grain. Cutting against the grain of long muscle fibers makes for tender bites that are easy to chew. You might be amazed at what a difference this simple step can make!
Sweet Pepper Braised Pork Butt Tacos
Perhaps the best part about this recipe is how simple it is. The primary flavor comes from whatever peppers you have in abundance, onion, and aromatic herbs. The soft, flavorful peppers make an excellent addition to your tacos as well as the meat from the braised pork butt.
Brush olive oil on your peppers and broil on high until the skin is blistered. I used red bell peppers, sweet mini peppers, and spicy Fresno peppers.
After your peppers are blistered, allow them to rest in their own flavorful juices while you brown the meat. No need to get fussy over peeling garlic or mincing onion–big chunks here are great!
Sear your pork butt, fatty side first, and save the rendered oil! Set meat aside while you sear your onion and garlic.
Once you’ve browned your meat on all sides, sear the garlic and onion to flavor rendered pork fat. Settle your meat, herbs, peppers, vinegar, and stock into the dutch oven and bring to a boil.
Ideally, your meat will be completely submerged. My pork butt was MASSIVE, however, and would barely fit in the dutch oven. I compensated by leaving the dutch oven covered for the entirety of the cooking process and by rotating the meat halfway through.
After about four hours have elapsed, shred the pork butt into bite-sized chunks, cutting any particularly long muscle fibers against the grain for maximum tenderness. Spoon braised pork butt and sweet peppers into warm tortillas with some fresh vegetables and herbs, and top with a squeeze of lime!
Cuisine American, Intuitive, Mexican, Seasonal, traditional
heavy bottomed dutch oven
4Tbsolive oil, divided
5-7lbpork butt or pork shoulder,at room temperature
2red, orange, or yellow bell peppers,whole
4-6sweet mini peppers,whole
2-6spicy peppers of your choice(I used Fresnos)
1white onion,skinned and cut into quarters
1/4cupapple cider vinegar
6-8cupschicken or pork broth,or enough to completely submerge the pork
freshly ground black pepper
2earsraw corn,kernels cut from the cob
2limes,cut into wedges
Turn the broiler on high. Brush your peppers in olive oil on all sides and arrange on a rimmed cookie sheet. Roast under the heat until the skin begins to blister, turning peppers as necessary so they roast evenly. This should take between 4-7 minutes per side. Once your pepper skins have blistered, place in a bowl and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 275°F. Generously season the pork on all sides with salt. Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat until drops of water quickly evaporate. Add pork shoulder, fattiest side down, and sear 5-8 minutes per side, or until deeply golden brown. Turn heat to medium-low and set the browned pork butt aside.
Cut the head of garlic in half horizontally and sear the exposed garlic cloves in the rendered pork fat until a nice caramel color, lowering heat if necessary. Remove from heat and add the onions. Sear undisturbed until the onion quarters take on some color, about 3 minutes.
Add stock and vinegar to the pan, scraping up any flavorful browned bits from the bottom of the dutch oven. Season the liquid with salt and pepper. Settle the pork butt into the liquid, fat side up, and add the two halves of the seared garlic head, bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn off the heat. Cover, then place in the oven for 3.5-4 hours, or until pork is falling off the shoulder bone.
Pull pork out of the liquid using tongs and, once it has cooled slightly, break apart using a fork or gloved hands. If necessary, cut any long muscle fibers against the grain to enhance tenderness.
Gently pull peppers from the cooking liquid and remove seeds and stems. If desired, roughly chop into bite sized chunks. Using tongs, place pork, peppers, corn, and cilantro into a warm tortilla and squeeze lime over the top. Serve immediately. Pork keeps up to 5 days in the fridge.
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If you are looking for a cauliflower rice recipe with simple ingredients and a big flavor, this is it. Plus, it happens to be vegan, paleo, and keto! It’s a great side for anyone monitoring how carbs and dairy react with their body. This creamy dish is surprisingly filling, and pairs well with just about any protein.
You may have heard that brightly colored foods contain more vitamins and minerals, but don’t be fooled: cauliflower ranks with the best of ’em for nutrition. With a high fiber content and low carb count, this low-glycemic food is a great addition to any diet. Whether you are on a plant-based food plan or an omnivorous one, a full serving of cauliflower will likely make your body happy. Aside from fiber, a serving of cauliflower contains:
Vitamin C. One cup of cauliflower contains 77% of your vitamin C intake for the day.
Vitamin K. In fact, some blood-thinning medications advise not to eat too much cauliflower too quickly, as its high vitamin K content may affect the medicine!
Vitamin B6 and folate
Phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium
Antioxidants. One of these, indole-3-carbinole, has been shown to reduce the likelihood of breast and reproductive cancers in men and women.
In short, eating these compounds has medical associations with improved memory, digestion, blood circulation, and bone strength. Sounds pretty good, right?
Is Coconut Milk Good For You?
If you’ve ever looked at the back of a can of coconut milk, you’ve probably noticed that it is a high calorie food. Even the “lite” coconut milk has about the same caloric value as an equivalent amount of whole milk. Conversely, 1 cup of coconut cream (a common ingredient in many curry dishes and soups) contains a whopping 552 calories, as well as 57 grams of fat.
You may be thinking, “That’s a lot of fat!”
If you are, you’re correct–roughly 93% of coconut milk’s calories come from fat. But the fat present in coconut milk is primarily composed of saturated fats known as medium-chain triglycerides (or MCTs). Generally, these fats are known to decrease appetite and increase energy, and may even improve your cholesterol levels!
Coconut milk and coconut cream also contain several vital nutrients, including copper, potassium, selenium, iron, folate, manganese, and magnesium.
To boot, coconut-based product contains lauric acid, which fights viruses and bacteria. This is why some people partake in coconut oil pulling to boost their oral hygiene.
Coconut oil has also been shown to reduce swelling and inflammation in several studies.
So yes: full fat coconut milk is rich in saturated fats. Luxuriate in it! With all the associated health benefits, adding coconut cream to your cauliflower rice will take your vegetable game to the next level.
Best Way to Cook Cauliflower
According to research presented by CNN, the best way to prepare vegetables is to steam them. This provides the highest level of nutrient retention in the vegetable, as opposed to boiling, which causes cauliflower to lose up to 50% of its antioxidants.
In short, the less water you use in your vegetable preparation, the more likely your veggies are to retain their nutrients.
Creamy Coconut Cauliflower Rice
First, chop the shallot, peel and chop the ginger, and zest and juice the lime.
Blitz the cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles rice.
Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet and sautee shallot and ginger for several minutes. Add riced cauliflower and sautee several more minutes. Add lime juice, zest, red pepper flakes, salt, and coconut milk. Cook until the coconut milk has reduced and the mixture is homogenous. Add cilantro as a garnish. Keeps up to 3 days in the fridge.
Creamy Coconut Cauliflower Rice (Vegan, Keto)
This cauliflower rice recipe calls for full fat coconut milk and lots of lime!
Cut and core the cauliflower into individual florets. Run the florets through the shredding blade of a food processor until the cauliflower resembles rice. Work in batches to avoid overloading the food processor.
Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the minced shallot, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes and sautee until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add the cauliflower and saute until the cauliflower releases steam, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
Add coconut milk and cook, stirring frequently, until the coconut milk has reduced and the mixture is homogenous.
Remove from heat and stir in lime zest and juice. Season with salt.
Garnish with cilantro and serve immediately. Keeps up to 3 days in the fridge.
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Have you ever wondered who first loved chickpeas enough to blitz them into a creamy, spoonable purée? Because it has been beloved by so many, the origins of hummus are somewhat disputed. Greek and Arab cultures both lay claim to the delightful spread–so, where did hummus come from? And what on earth is aquafaba!?
Regardless of where hummus comes from, Greeks and Arabs historically traded many goods, sharing ideas, music, and food for a very long time. Both cultures also happen to enjoy stuffed grape leaves and baklava, no doubt reaching back to their intermingling during the Ottoman Empire. It’s no wonder they both claim to be the inventors of hummus! We may never know its true origins.
What we know for sure is that the earliest mention of hummus dates back to 13th century Egypt. Since the 1200s, however, hummus has come in many different forms. A quick Google search yields recipes for “Egyptian hummus,” “Greek hummus,” “Israeli hummus,” “Lebanese hummus“…the list goes on. The basics of these recipes are all fundamentally the same, however; blend cooked chickpeas with lemon juice, tahini, and seasonings together and enjoy!
The happy additions of tahini, lemon, and raw garlic make this simple dish enjoyable as an appetizer or first course–or as part of an epic charcuterie platter! So, what makes my recipe different? For this version of hummus, I include a no-cost secret ingredient: aquafaba!
What is Aquafaba?
Aquafaba is the water reserved from the process of cooking chickpeas. This water is rich in starches and, when whipped, makes a colloidal foam not dissimilar to egg whites. This is why aquafaba is popular among vegans and egg-intolerant individuals. The liquid from a can of chickpeas is so reliably fluffy when whipped, it can even be used to make vegan meringue cookies!
Other Ways to Use Aquafaba
Because of its fluffy characteristics when whipped, aquafaba affords bakers and home cooks many options in the kitchen. Here are some of the primary ways chefs use aquafaba:
With aquafaba, the only limit in the kitchen is your imagination! Use it in lieu of egg whites in sweet or savory recipes.
Not Everyone Loves Aquafaba…
While vegans and egg-intolerant people shared a lot of excitement since aquafaba hit the food scene in recent years, some nutritionists remain skeptical. Despite its fluffy characteristics, there’s more to “bean water” (“faba” and “aqua” in Latin) than meets the eye.
Others think the starchy water from the beans causes undue gastrointestinal distress because of its oligosaccharide content. This can cause gas and bloating in folks with a sensitive digestive system, and some claim it can even lead to leaky gut syndrome.
However, due to aquafaba’s recent arrival in the culinary world, there’s not much research to dispute or confirm any potential health benefits (from avoiding eggs) or harmful effects (from BPAs and starches). Cultures have long consumed stews containing the cooking liquid from pre-soaked dried chickpeas, so as is usually the case with intuitive eating, listen to your gut here (literally)! Everything in moderation, right?
Why I Use Aquafaba in This Recipe
The addition of some of the starchy water whips together with the chickpeas to create a truly fluffy, creamy texture without adding excess oil. I personally don’t eat a lot of canned food, am not pregnant, and am not overly concerned about–erm–passing wind. I’m pretty sure my dog doesn’t love me any less if I fart…so I’ll take the cut in unnecessary fat and the boost in texture, please! 🙂
Basic Hummus Recipe
Here is the basic skeleton of the recipe for hummus, which you can “dress up” any way you like. I doctored mine with extra raw garlic for a little punch.
I crushed the two heads of garlic and left them to soak in the lemon juice for around 15 minutes. The lemon juice takes some of the pungent bite and tempers garlic’s “rougher” edges. For maximum “garlic taming,” mince or press the garlic into the lemon juice.
Blitz everything in a food processor, gradually adding aquafaba until the hummus is of the desired thickness. Garnish with chopped toasted nuts, pomegranite seeds, sesame seeds, fresh herbs…I topped mine with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sumac.
Serve with your desired dip-able foods! Keeps well covered in the fridge up to 1 week.
Basic Oil-Free Hummus (With Aquafaba!)
The addition of aquafaba eliminates the need to use olive oil as a binder and makes for a fluffy, addicting dip!
Juice the lemon. Peel and chop garlic, then add to the lemon juice to macerate, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, drain chickpeas using a fine strainer over a bowl or large measuring cup. You should have about 3/4 cup of aquafaba. Add chickpeas to a food processor or blender along with tahini, a pinch of salt, and the lemon juice with garlic. Pulverize in pulses, gradually adding aquafaba until the hummus is of a desirable consistency.
Taste, and season for salt. Garnish with chopped toasted nuts, pomegranate seeds, sumac, olive oil, sesame seeds, pine nuts, and/or fresh herbs and serve. Keeps well in the fridge about 1 week.
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If you, like me, have been hoarding boxes of pasta over the course of the pandemic, you may be getting tired of your same old noodle routines. We all have the recipe rotations we keep in our back pocket for those nights following long days during which we haven’t had much bandwidth to think about dinner. Part of the beauty of a recipe like pasta carbonara is that the scratch-made sauce that takes moments to come together; even better, it maximizes flavor with only a few simple ingredients. This is a great one for everything from fancy date nights to “Oh my gosh I am so tired but can’t do canned red sauce even one more time this week” dinners!
A Brief History of Pasta
The origins of pasta as we know it are somewhat in dispute: there are those who claim it dates as far back as 3000 B.C. in China, and those who attest it had a parallel birthplace in 1100s Sicily. Regardless of origin, pasta has always held global appeal and been a cheap, reliable, appealing way to fill a belly.
According to “Italics Magazine,” an Italian magazine written in English, pasta as we know it was originally closer to lasagne than spaghetti. In the 1st century A.D, Horace, the Roman poet, wrote of “lagana,” a dish made of sheets of fried dough which may or may not have been stuffed with layers of meat.
Writings from 3rd century Palestine describe “itriyya,” a semolina-based dough cut into strips, dried, and then boiled. An Arab lexicographer and physician named Isho bar Ali described this ancient cousin of pasta in detail, and wrote of the industry surrounding it–ships sent the itriyya to “Calabria, to Muslim and Christian countries,” noting “very many shiploads are sent.”
As a result of extensive trading in the Middle Ages, food historians estimate pasta began to take on different shapes. Sicily may be credited with couscous; by the 13th century, pasta shapes like gnocchi, ravioli, vermicelli, and macaroni spread across the Italian peninsula.
Naples emerged as the leading producer and consumer of pasta in the 17th century. Pasta’s increasing popularity may have been due to the fact that it was a dish accessible to those who did not have the means to purchase meat for their meals. The Industrial Revolution saw the advent of machines like the torchio, which was a mechanical press designed to cut dough into thin pieces. The first license for a pasta factory was written in Venice in 1740.
In 1877, in the town of Parma, Italy, Pietro Barilla began one of the most successful pasta businesses still in production today.
Pasta’s Story Isn’t Over
Some pasta shape traditionalists attest that the record for existing pasta shapes is set in stone. Pasta-curious podcast host Dan Pashman challenged the status quo this year by setting out to create the “perfect” pasta shape: able to be speared by a fork and retain sauce, and toothsome enough to have a decent chew.
According to the New York Times, he worked with Sfoglini, a pasta company based in New York, to put the wheels in motion and create a riff on tradition. After nearly three years of research, they made the bronze casting capable of bringing Pashman’s dream to fruition and a new shape was born!
Enter cascatelli, a word derived from the Italian “cascata,” meaning waterfall. This new noodle is available for purchase online and was even recommended by the NYT article to be paired with–you guessed it–carbonara sauce!
So What About Carbonara?
If you, like me, impulsively purchased every available box of bucatini after the great bucatini shortage of 2020, a more traditional pasta shape would lend itself just as well to carbonara, a dish which may have origins reaching back to Italian coal miners, as it was colloquially called “coal miner’s spaghetti.” (“Carbonaro” is the Italian word for charcoal burner.)
While it is possible, of course, to eat whatever shape of pasta you like, it is recommended that you choose a shape with a large ratio of surface area to volume, like spaghetti, bucatini, or fettuccine in order to cook the eggs in the sauce properly. Let your heart be your guide!
Gather the ingredients. Grate the cheese, whisk the eggs with salt and heavy pepper, cook the bacon…
Whisk cheese into the eggs and place in a large bowl while the pasta is cooking. Enjoy a little mental “vacation” while all you have to do is stare into a pot of boiling water, stirring occasionally…
When the pasta is al dente, drain and add to the egg and cheese mixture, tossing vigorously. Serve immediately topped with more cheese if desired, or grated salt cured egg yolk.
Note: the pasta will loose a lot of heat when transferred from colander to cold bowl with cold sauce. Have whoever you are feeding on call and ready to eat! 🙂
Al dente pasta cooked bacon or guanciale is tossed in raw eggs, cheese, and salt and pepper, cooking the eggs and turning them into a delicious, creamy sauce.
8ozpasta(bucatini, spaghetti, or fettuccine are traditional)
5piecesthick cut bacon(guanciale or pancetta are more traditional, so feel free to sub)
1Tbs olive oilif using guanciale or pancetta (otherwise, omit)
Heat the oven to 425°F. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Lay bacon on a metal rack over a sheet track with a lip, and cook bacon in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, until thoroughly cooked but not crispy. Chop or snip bacon into 1/2" pieces and set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks, and both cheeses. Season with a small pinch of salt (bearing in mind the pasta water is salted and the bacon contributes a significant amount of salt) and a generous crack of fresh pepper. Set aside.
Cook pasta until al dente, 8-12 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a serving bowl with hot water to preheat.
Drain pasta when al dente, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. Dump hot water from serving bowl, patting dry with a towel. Add pasta to the warmed bowl, followed by the egg and cheese mixture, tossing continuously. If desired, add some pasta water for additional creaminess.
Serve immediately with more cheese, fresh pepper, or salt-cured egg yolks if desired.
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As the fall and winter months steal over the calendar, baked yam dishes similarly creep into my meal plans as the year’s darkness and chill cause cravings for sugar and fat. This is not to say I don’t find an excuse to eat sweet potato fries all year…but since the trend to replace yams with russet potatoes in French fries hit the gastronomic scene in the 1980s, yams have come a long way from their once-a-year appearance at the Thanksgiving dinner table to transitioning into a bit more of a culinary “regular.”
Why Choose Baked Yam Dishes Over White Potatoes?
Yams are a great replacement for regular white potatoes if a diet requires complex carbs rather than starch, which is often hard to digest and more filling than it is nutritious. Generally, sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index (GI) than russet potatoes. Additionally, yams are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants like beta carotene. This antioxidant is turned into vitamin A once it is digested, which is essential for immune system function, skin clarity, and eye health. It is also pivotal in maintaining healthy mucous membranes in the digestive system, increasing immune response and lowering inflammation. In fact, vitamin A is incredibly abundant in yams, clocking in at over 100% of the daily value (DV) recommended for optimal health. What’s more, it is a fat-soluble nutrient–so preparing your baked yam with a little fat helps to make this vitamin more readily absorbable.
The Colorful Food Diet
Studies suggest that loading your plate with a variety of colors is a great way to ensure consumption of an abundance of nutrients, and typically at a lower caloric cost. This is a fun way to skip out on taking daily supplements and to explore new foods and cooking methods at the same time. Additionally, brightly colored foods tend to be fruits and vegetables, which have added benefits aside from their vitamin and mineral content such as fiber, complex carbs, healthy fats, and more.
Health Benefits of Tahini
Aside from boasting a rich, complex flavor, tahini has several health benefits as well. Just one tablespoon of tahini contains minerals essential to bone health, like phosphorous and manganese. Tahini also contains thiamine (vitamin B1) and vitamin B6, which are both important for sustaining energy production. Like yams, tahini is contains anti-inflammatory compounds and may even be beneficial to people with arthritis.
Sesame seeds, the main ingredient in tahini, have even been shown to improve kidney and liver function, and may even help to prevent fatty liver disease by increasing fat burning and decreasing fat production due to naturally occurring compounds. Sesame oil is a heart-healthy oil with primarily unsaturated fats and omega-6.
The Bottom Line
This dish is rich, filling, and incidentally healthy. One yam can easily feed two people, especially if prepared as a side dish to a protein or salad. Get your knife and fork ready and eat to your health!
Tahini and lemon juice is a classic pairing. The acidity of the lemon helps to temper some of tahini’s more earthy, bitter notes while enlivening some of its more pleasant characteristics, like its nutty richness and tang. Throw some grated garlic into the mix and you’ve got the beginnings of a flavorful dressing!
This easy dinner comes together quickly and is a great way to stretch ingredients to fill more bellies!
Sweet Baked Yam With Tahini, Cilantro, and Pepitas
Bake a yam and dress it with a sweet tahini sauce, fresh herbs, pepitas for crunch, and sour cream, creme fraiche, or yogurt for brightness! A simple, healthy, and fresh lunch or dinner.
Scrub yam free of dirt and particulates. Wrap in tin foil tightly and bake in the oven until fork-tender and releasing caramelized juices, 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the size of the yam.
Meanwhile, create the tahini dressing. Mix tahini, lemon juice, honey, garlic, oil, and water in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup until silky and uniform. Remove cilantro leaves from the stems and chop.
In a small skillet over medium heat, toast pumpkin seeds until fragrant and golden, about five minutes. Set aside.
When the yam has finished baking, remove from the oven, discard the tinfoil, and set the yam on a large plate. Using a long knife, slice the yam into four even pieces, lengthwise. Immediately splatter tahini and sour cream in equal measure over the yam. Toss cilantro and pumpkin seeds over the top, and a dash of sumac, if desired. Serve immediately.
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Picture this: you’ve just found the most perfect recipe for homemade pumpkin pie. You’ve cleared your schedule, cleaned your kitchen, purchased the ingredients, including pumpkin puree…and now all there is left to do is bake.
You begin adding ingredients to the mixing bowl with precision and care until you come to the pinnacle moment that gives your pie its very essence: the can of pumpkin puree. (Of course, if you take the time to process your own pumpkin every time you bake a pie, my hat is off to you. Sometimes we only have time for a two hour project, so a can of the sweet orange stuff will have to do!)
After adding the necessary puree to the bowl, your stomach falls to the floor. You realize, hands shaking, that you have an odd amount of leftover pumpkin in the can. You know logically that if you cover it with cling film and try to save it, it will kick around in the fridge for longer than you’d like until you find some use for it or at last throw it away. Even the dogs have started rolling their eyes at you when you continue to offer them spoonfuls…they’ve seen this all play out before.
Fear not, reader. There is an easy, delicious use for the odd amount of pumpkin puree that you’ve always wondered what to do with. The solution in this case, and in many other cases, is: pasta.
Sweet and Spicy Vegan Pumpkin Puree Pasta
For those of you who are paying attention to how much dairy you consume, this recipe was created with the intention of making it vegan. (If you’d rather have your dairy, feel free to substitute heavy whipping cream for coconut cream and parmesan for capers.) With the holiday season upon us, I found myself craving something relatively healthy and light.
This recipe can all be made in one pot, for those of you who prefer to do less dishes. I have a feeling I am not alone in this…
Toast the walnuts while you are making your sauce. Chop them up to your desired coarseness when they are cool enough to touch. Add red pepper flakes, torn parsley, and capers.
Creamy Pumpkin Pasta (Vegan)
This healthy, one-pot dinner makes a great ending to a busy day.
Sometimes, you move across the country and have to coast on very limited funds until your first paycheck. Sometimes, all you can afford is collard greens.
Sometimes, you have to shop at the grocery store with your brain instead of your heart (isn’t that a lucky thing, to be able to say “sometimes” about that?) and choose cheap and abundant over exoticism or quality.
Sometimes, this is a great challenge. Other times, it is a great challenge. Am I being clear?
So when I went to the grocery store wondering how I was going to pick up sustenance for the next month or so while my finances slowly regulate, I had to choose my purchases very carefully.
Already blessed with an abundance of spices, grains, flours, condiments, and dried beans, I chose several things very deliberately such as a can of full fat coconut milk, chicken thighs, and a laughably large bundle of fresh collard greens. (The leaves leapt out of the bag towards my elbow during the way to the car and would not fit in the vegetable drawer in the fridge when I got home, point blank.)
This recipe came together beautifully after a full day at work. Best of all, it all gets thrown into one pot.
I started by flavoring the broth I used to cook the rice.
After this simmered gently for a few moments, in goes the rice, then chicken, coconut milk, soy sauce, sweet chili paste, and mirin.
In go the chopped collards…
One dirty pot later is dinner!
Creamy Coconut Collard Greens (A One Pot Dinner)
Coconut milk, rice, chicken thighs, and collards come together for this delicious one pot meal.
1small bunch collard greens(or 1/2 of a large bunch)
Combine broth, ginger, lemongrass, lime juice, soy sauce, mirin, red pepper flakes, and sweet chili jelly in a large, heavy bottomed saucepot with a lid and stir. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 3-5 minutes, until the ginger and lemongrass release their odor and chili flakes begin to bleed color into the broth.
While the broth is developing flavor, salt both sides of the chicken thighs with a pinch or two of salt each. If desired, strain flavored broth using a collander into a large bowl to remove chunks of lemongrass and ginger, then pour broth back into the warm saucepot.
Add rice, chicken thighs, and coconut milk, taking care to scrape coconut fat in with the rest of the can. Stir to combine, then cover with a lid. Cook 10 minutes over medium heat.
Meanwhile, remove the stalks of the collard greens and roughly chop them into approximately 1" thick pieces. Add chopped collards and cover. Cook another 20 minutes or so, until rice is al dente and chicken thighs register at least 155°F on a thermometer. Serve immediately. Keeps well in the fridge for up to one week.