Caponata (Sicilian-style summer vegetables)

Photo of eggplant dish caponata

Bursting with fresh summer flavors, Caponata is one of my favorite dishes to make when eggplant, tomatoes, and basil come into season.

I first tasted Caponata at a class on Italian side dishes at Cook Like An Italian led by Monica Pesoli. She cooked each main ingredient separately, then simmered them together with white wine vinegar and fresh herbs. Caponata is full of distinct flavors that go perfectly together.

More recently, I’ve been going through Lidia Bastianich’s 2017 cookbook Lidia’s Celebrate Like An Italian and discovered her Caponata recipe. The recipe below is based on the one in her book. You can serve it as a side dish (warm or chilled) or as an appetizer (after it is cooled, chop into small pieces and serve on crostini).

Caponata (Sicilian Style Summer Vegetables)
 
Caponata is the perfect Italian dish to make when eggplant, tomatoes, and fresh basil are in season. Enjoy as a side dish (warm or chilled) or appetizer (chopped and served on crostini).
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium eggplant, ½ inch cubes
  • 1 medium zucchini, ½ inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, peeled, seeded, cut into ½ inch squares
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ¼ cup pitted green olives, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons organic sugar (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
Instructions
  1. Heat large sauté pan over medium heat for about 1 minute. Add ¼ cup olive oil, then add eggplant in a single layer. You can do two batches if all of the eggplant does not fit in a single layer. Sauté eggplant, letting it turn golden brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon to a large prep bowl.
  2. Add remaining ¼ cup olive oil, and repeat with zucchini. Remove zucchini with a slotted spoon (to leave oil in the pan) to the bowl with the eggplant.
  3. Add onion and celery to the pan and sauté about 5 minutes.
  4. Add red bell pepper, raisins, olives, capers, pine nuts, sea salt, and red pepper flakes and sauté until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes, white wine vinegar, and sugar (if using). Simmer until liquid has evaporated and tomatoes are well incorporated.
  6. Add fresh herbs and toss together.

 

The last few summer menus I made with caponata included:

  • Wild salmon, polenta, caponata, and grilled broccolini
  • Pacific rock cod with capers and white wine sauce, risotto, caponata, and caprese salad
  • Ocean perch with white wine sauce, basmati rice, caponata, and caprese salad

Photo of eggplant dish caponataPhoto of Italian meal with caponata

Some other summertime dishes you may want to try:

Provençal Vegetable Soup with Tomato-Basil Pesto (Soupe Au Pistou)

Grilled Halibut in Cedar Wraps

Baby Arugula Salad with Berries and Lemongrass Mint Vinaigrette

Asian Mushroom Lettuce Wraps (V, GF, soy-free)

Southwestern Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing

 

Summertime Buckwheat Salad with Lemon Dill Dressing

 

Buon appetito!

 

Provençal Vegetable Soup with Tomato-Basil Pesto (Soupe Au Pistou)

I first discovered Soupe au Pistou, Provençal Vegetable Soup with Tomato-Basil Pesto, when reading Mastering the Art of French Eating by Ann Ma. This book is not to be confused with Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Simone Beck, Louisette Berthole, and Julia Child (her first cookbook).

Ann Ma describes her experience traveling to a village in Southern France during summer vegetable harvest time. When gardens are bursting with ripe tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, white beans, fresh basil, and potatoes– what to do?

They have the perfect solution in this small town. Everyone gathers with their surplus produce to slice, dice, and make huge pots of brothy Soupe au Pistou to be shared with friends and family. It’s a real community event, and I imagine it’s much more fun than slaving away by yourself in a hot kitchen in July or August.

In preparing to teach this recipe, I referenced a few other versions of the recipe, the one in Mastering the Art of French Cooking and the most recent one in Cook’s Illustrated All-Time Best Soups. I came up with this version, that can easily made vegan by leaving out the parmesan cheese. I prefer to serve grated parmesan on the side. 

If you’re using leeks (rather than onions) in this recipe, go ahead and make a simple stock out of the green parts. Just slice the green parts of the leek, rinse well under cold water, then place them in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Strain out the leek greens and you are left with a light and flavorful broth to use in your Soupe Au Pistou!

For more soup recipes on my web site, visit:

Italian White Bean Soup

Italian Chickpea Soup with Fusilli

Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

Cecilia’s Pozole Verde

Miso Vegetable Soup

Creamy Corn Soup with Dulse

Creamy Broccoli Soup with Fresh Rosemary

Roasted Carrot and Fennel Soup

Provençal Vegetable Soup with Tomato-Basil Pesto (Soupe Au Pistou)
 
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“Early summer is the Mediterranean season for soupe au pistou, when fresh basil, fresh white beans, and broad mange-tout beans are all suddenly available, and the market women shout in the streets, “Mesdames, faites le bon piste, faites le pistou!” The pistou itself, like the Italian pesto, is a sauce made of garlic, basil, tomato, and olive oil, and is just as good on spaghetti as it is in this rich vegetable soup. Fortunately, this soup is not confined to summer and fresh vegetables, for you can use canned navy beans, fresh or frozen string beans, and a fragrant dried basil. Other vegetables in season may be added with the green beans as you wish, such as peas, diced zucchini, and green or red bell peppers.” — Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child
Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: French
Serves: 8 servings
Ingredients
  • Soup
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups leek (white parts) or onion, diced
  • 2 cups carrots, diced
  • 2 cups potatoes (yukon gold or red), diced
  • 8 cups spring or filtered water, divided
  • 2 cups zucchini, diced
  • 2 cups fresh green beans, ½” lengths
  • 2 cups cooked cranberry beans or white beans
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • Pistou
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • ½ cup fresh or canned tomato purée or 2 Roma tomatoes (seeded)
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, loosely packed
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
  • ¼ to ½ cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil
Instructions
  1. Heat large soup pot over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add leeks or onion and sauté with a pinch of salt for a few minutes.
  2. Add carrots and potatoes and stir to combine.
  3. Add 4 cups water, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn to low and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the pistou by placing ingredients in a blender and blending until smooth. Instead of tomato puree, you can add two seeded Roma tomatoes to the blender.
  5. Add zucchini, green beans, cranberry or white beans (with cooking liquid if homemade; drained if canned), salt, and pepper. Add remaining 4 cups water (or more if needed), bring back to a boil, then lower heat and simmer slowly for 3 minutes.
  6. Stir pistou into soup and simmer 3 minutes more.
  7. Test for seasonings and add a little more salt and pepper if needed.
  8. Serve with rice, pasta, or fresh bread. Bon appétit!

Join me for upcoming Plant-based Cooking Classes for adults (lunchtime classes) and kids (summer camp) at Con’ Olio Olive Oils and Vinegars in their two locations– Bee Cave and Arboretum or schedule your own class from my on-demand offerings for families, groups, and individuals!

Baby Arugula Salad with Berries and Lemongrass Mint Vinaigrette

baby arugula salad


I’m in love!

In mid-June, I started teaching kids’ cooking classes at Con’ Olio Oils & Vinegars in Austin, TX and was transported into the world of amazing, high quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars from Europe. A few weeks before my classes started I got a tour of the store and sampled a variety of their products. I fell head over heals with everything I tasted, and was especially taken with the white balsamics which are lighter in color and flavor than the dark varieties (which I also love). It was the Lemongrass Mint White Balsamic that I ended up using in this recipe.

Summer is a great time for salads

In summer, I do a lot less cooking, but still like to eat at home. The simple solution is making more salads and using the grill to avoid heating up the kitchen. This Baby Arugula Salad is great for either lunch or dinner with something like a creamy vegetable soup (try Creamy Broccoli Soup or Creamy Butternut Squash Soup) and some fresh bread with olive oil. Make the soup early one morning before it gets hot, and quickly heat it up for meals later in the day or serve chilled.

How to make arugula taste great

This salad took me by surprise. I made during the first week of kids’ cooking camp at Con’ Olio and EVERYONE liked it– even those children that swore up and down they didn’t like vegetables. The key to this salad is finding a dressing that balances the peppery flavor of the baby arugula and the tartness of the berries. On the recommendation of the manager at Con’ Olio (who is also a chef), I used a combination of a mild olive oil and their lemongrass-mint white balsamic vinegar for the dressing. It is just equal parts of each with a little sea salt and black pepper. It was unbelievably delicious! I look forward to trying some of their dark balsamics (like strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, or fig), maybe when the weather cools down a bit.

Baby Arugula Salad with Berries and Lemongrass-Mint Vinaigrette
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
Salad
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese (optional), shaved
  • ¼ cup raspberries
  • ¼ cup blueberries
  • ¼ cup strawberries, sliced
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
Dressing
Instructions
  1. In a medium prep bowl, mix together arugula and spinach.
  2. Prepare dressing by whisking together olive oil and white balsamic vinegar with a few pinches sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper in a small mixing bowl or glass measuring cup.
  3. Using a pair of tongs, toss salad greens and Pecorino Romano (if using) with dressing until evenly coated.
  4. Divide greens onto 4 salad plates. Top each salad with a variety of berries and sliced almonds.

baby arugula salad
Baby Arugula Salad from Kids’ Cooking Camp at Con’ Olio Oils & Vinegars- June 2018

Italian White Bean Soup with Fresh Rosemary and Basil

Italian white bean soup

Soup is hearty, nourishing, and satisfying

Hearty and nourishing, Italian white bean soup is what you need to sustain you through a long work day, when taking care of children or nursing a baby, to refuel after a workout, or frankly anytime you want a satisfying meal. This plant-based soup is chock full of vitamins and minerals that are easy for your body to assimilate because all of the vegetables, beans, and sea salt are cooked together in a broth. Bean soups generally reheat well, so make a double or triple batch so that you can store some in the freezer and thaw it out for last-minute weeknight meals. I always add some fresh greens like baby spinach or kale when reheating my soup on the stove. It adds freshness and color to what would otherwise be a boring leftover meal.


Homemade or canned beans?

You can sub 2 cans of white beans for the homemade beans in this recipe, but it will not be as delicious. Homemade beans are truly wonderful, more digestible (when soaked, drained, and cooked with kombu) and flavorful than canned, but you do have to plan ahead. I usually soak a big batch of beans every week or two, and cook them until soft and season with sea salt. If you use a pressure cooker, it cuts down on the cooking time. I freeze whatever I’m not going to use in the next few days in quart-sized freezer bags. When it comes time to make a soup I thaw out a bag of beans instead of having to start from scratch. More detailed instructions on how to make beans from scratch are in my posts Homemade Black Beans and Macrobiotic-style Giant Peruvian Lima Beans.


Fresh ingredients are the key to a delicious soup

Choose ingredients that are fresh and full of life. If celery or carrots have gone limp, you can perk them up by cutting a little slice off the bottom of each vegetable and stand up in a quart-sized mason jar filled halfway with water. Within 30-60 minutes your vegetables should be rehydrated and ready to use. The last few years I’ve been growing fresh herbs in pots on my back porch. You can even put a little planter in a sunny windowsill if you don’t have a yard or porch to garden in. It’s amazing how much more delicious herbs are when picked right before you use them.


Learn how to prep veggies with skill and ease with my knife skills cooking video

Once you have a few knife skills under your belt it is so easy to whip together a big pot of soup. Check out my latest cooking video on how to slice and dice veggies for this soup here. In the video I show how to dice an onion into perfectly even pieces, how to slice a zucchini into half or quarter moons, how to dice carrots, and how to slice celery on the bias.

 

Italian White Bean Soup with Fresh Rosemary and Basil
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Italian, Macrobiotic, Vegan, Gluten-Free
Serves: 4-6 servings
Ingredients
  • Beans
  • 1 cup dried organic white beans (cannellini, navy, or giant white lima)
  • kombu, 1” square
  • spring or filtered water
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • Soup
  • 1 small yellow onion or sweet onion, diced
  • pinch unrefined sea salt
  • 1 tablespoons organic extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced in diagonals
  • 1 zucchini, sliced in quarter moons
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock (Imagine brand no-chicken vegetable stock
  • recommended)
  • ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • sea salt, to taste
Instructions
Beans
  1. Sort, rinse, and soak the beans in spring or filtered water overnight. When beans are rehydrated, discard the bean soaking water.
  2. In medium pot, add beans and enough water to cover beans by about 2 inches and bring to a boil. Skim foam and add kombu. Cover, turn to low, and simmer until beans are tender. Season with sea salt and set aside. Alternatively, pressure cook white beans instead of boiling after skimming foam and adding kombu. Once beans are up to pressure with lid locked, turn to low and cook for about 15 minutes. Then turn off heat and let come down from pressure naturally before opening up pot.
Soup
  1. In medium-sized soup pot, sauté onion with a pinch of sea salt in olive oil until soft.
  2. Add carrots, celery, zucchini, garlic, and rosemary, and cook a few minutes more.
  3. Add cooked beans and water or stock. Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until flavors are blended.
  4. Add basil and season with more sea salt, if needed.
  5. Garnish with fresh parsley or other seasonal herbs and serve warm.
Variations
  1. Garnish with pieces of pan-fried dulse instead of parsley.
  2. When reheating, add a handful of baby spinach or kale.
  3. Make a large batch and freeze half to warm up later.
  4. Use chicken stock or chicken bone broth in place of the vegetable stock.
  5. Add 1 cup cooked shredded chicken for a heartier soup.

 

Watch these videos I made with Dr. Jonathan Schultz of Family First Chiropractic (Austin, TX) on making Italian White Bean Soup with Fresh Rosemary and Basil:

Italian White Bean Soup video:

 

Knife skills and veggie prep for Italian White Bean Soup video:

 

Related recipes on my blog:

Italian Chickpea Soup with Fusilli Pasta

Giant Peruvian Lima Beans

Homemade Black Bean

 

Upcoming Classes and Workshops:

I’m teaching the kids’ cooking classes at Con’ Olio Oils and Vinegars shop in the Arboretum (NW Austin) this summer! Please check out the schedule here.

For the schedule of classes at my home in SW Austin, click here.

For private and group classes, click here.

Corporate team building workshops centered around cooking and wellness:

Check out my web site for corporate team building and contact me if you have a group interested in doing a workshop with me!

Italian Chickpea Soup with Fusilli Pasta

Over the years, this Italian Chickpea Soup has been a family favorite and has always gone over well with children visiting our home.The addition of pasta makes the soup heartier, like a minestrone, and can definitely be considered a one-pot meal.

I recently had the opportunity to teach a cooking class at my daughter’s elementary classroom where I decided to serve the soup with pasta and bread, which was a real hit! An added bonus is how economical this recipe is. We made this recipe X4, which fed about 35 people, using all organic ingredients, for under $2 per person including soup, pasta, bread, and butter.

Day 1 of our cooking class involved walking to the grocery store, selecting our groceries, and carrying our groceries back in a wagon! When we got back to the classroom, we soaked the chickpeas so they would be ready to cook the following day.

Day 2 of our cooking class involved cooking the chickpeas in the pressure cooker, and slicing, dicing, and sautéing vegetables for the soup.

The secret to making this soup delicious is to make your chickpeas from scratch. Make your chickpeas in advance, as it takes a good 8-10 hours to rehydrate the dried chickpeas (I usually do this step overnight), and some more time to cook them. I use a pressure-cooker to make my chickpeas, but they can be made in a regular pot (it just takes longer). I recommend making a big batch of chickpeas and freezing some away in quart-sized freezer bags that you can use later on to make hummus or another batch of soup. Here is my recipe for Homemade Chickpeas.

5.0 from 2 reviews
Italian Chickpea Soup with Pasta
 
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Author:
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Serves: 6 servings
Ingredients
  • 1 recipe Homemade Chickpeas or 3 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced into rounds or half moons
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced into half or quarter moons
  • 4 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1 organic bay leaf
  • ½ cup fresh parsley or basil leaves, chopped, divided
  • 2 cups cooked pasta (such as farfalle, fusilli, twists, wheels, or shells)
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (optional)
  • sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Follow instructions for making Homemade Chickpeas. Set chickpeas aside. Do not drain, as the chickpea cooking liquid will be used in the soup. If using canned chickpeas you will need to drain the liquid from the can.
  2. In 3- to 5-quart soup pot, sauté onion in 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of sea salt for about 10 minutes over medium or medium-low heat. Add rosemary and stir to coat onions. Add another tablespoon olive oil, celery, carrot, and another pinch sea salt and sauté about 10 minutes more. Adjust heat if necessary to prevent burning. Add zucchini and sauté a minute more.
  3. Place chickpeas and chickpea cooking liquid into soup pot and add stock and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low, cover, and simmer until zucchini is soft, about 8 minutes. Add half of fresh herbs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve pasta in soup bowls and pour chickpea soup over the pasta.
  5. Garnish each bowl with remaining fresh herbs and/or grated cheese (if using).
Notes:
  1. Make this recipe gluten-free by using a gluten-free variety of pasta.
  2. If using canned chickpeas, add 3 cloves minced garlic along with carrots and celery.

By noon our cooking crew was ready to serve their homemade soup, pasta, and bread to the class.

Enjoy making soup on a cold winter day and share with some friends!

Homemade Chickpeas

Homemade chickpeas are a must for making hummus, chickpea soup, or anything else you love to make with chickpeas. I like to make chickpeas in a pressure cooker because they get softer than when boiled, and they cook much faster than boiling. But I included instructions for either method.

Make sure to keep plenty of dry chickpeas on hand so that you can soak some the night before you are going to cook them. When chickpeas are rehydrated, you can cook them right away or hold in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

Homemade Chickpeas
 
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Although this recipe calls for 1 cup dry chickpeas, I recommend making at least a triple batch so that you have enough chickpeas to make a big batch of soup to share with friends, or so that you can freeze some away to use for recipes later on.
Author:
Serves: 3 cups
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dry chickpeas
  • spring or filtered water
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
  • 1-inch piece kombu
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
Instructions
  1. Rinse chickpeas and place in glass bowl. Cover with water about 1-2 inches above the chickpeas and soak overnight.
  2. Drain the chickpeas and place in a pressure cooker with enough fresh water to cover 2 inches above the beans.
  3. Boil for 5 minutes uncovered. Skim off foam that collects on the surface with fine mesh simmer.
  4. Add garlic and kombu. Place lid on the pressure cooker and allow to come up to pressure. If there is more than one setting on the pressure cooker, use the lower pressure setting to avoid having chickpeas break apart. Turn heat down to low, and cook chickpeas for 18 minutes.
  5. Remove pressure cooker from heat and allow the pressure to come down naturally. Once the lid has unlocked, add sea salt and simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes.
Notes:
  1. If you do not have a pressure cooker, simmer beans for 90 minutes, or until beans are soft but not falling part. Then add sea salt and simmer a few minutes more.
  2. If you cannot find kombu sea vegetable, you can use a bay leaf instead. I like to use Atlantic kombu from Ironbound Island Seaweed which is locally available at Wheatsville Coop.

 

Creamy Polenta Bowl with Kale and Roasted Chickpeas

photo of polenta bowl with chickpeas and kale

I invited my former student Naomi Silverman, to contribute a recipe for my blog so that I could feature her work and let people know how awesome she is! She gave me this lovely recipe for a Creamy Polenta Bowl with Kale and Roasted Chickpeas. It is simple enough as is to make for a weekday lunch or dinner, but can be jazzed up for a dinner party with just a few additions–such as colorful quick ume pickles, a delicious tahini dressing, or some steamed, tri-colored carrots! Feel free to vary the beans, vegetables, or grains if you don’t have the same ingredients on hand, but keep in mind that the cooking technique for polenta is very different from other grains such as brown rice or quinoa (which steam rather than simmer). This recipe is vegan and gluten-free.

Creamy Polenta Bowl with Kale and Roasted Chickpeas
 
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Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Vegan
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
Chickpeas
  • 15-oz can or 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • dash black pepper
  • dash chili powder (chipotle or other)
  • 1 teaspoon untoasted sesame oil
Polenta
  • 1 cup dry polenta (coarse ground cornmeal)
  • 2 cups spring or filtered water
  • 2 cups soy milk or almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • dash black pepper
Kale
  • 1 bunch curly kale, tough part of stems removed and chopped into one-inch pieces
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 teaspoons unrefined coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons ume plum vinegar
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
Optional
  • 1 avocado, diced
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large baking dish or sheet pan, toss chickpeas with oil, salt, pepper, and chile powder. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, stirring once after 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, bring polenta and water to a boil, whisking frequently. As the liquid gets absorbed, stir in milk, little by little, until the polenta is smooth, creamy, and free of lumps, about 20-30 minutes.
  3. While polenta cooks, heat a large skillet, add coconut oil and diced onions, and sauté until translucent, about 5-10 minutes. Add the kale and sprinkle on ume plum vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sauté for a few minutes until the kale is tender but still bright green.
  4. To serve, arrange all items in a bowl as desired and top with with diced avocado.

Naomi interned with me this year after completing her classroom hours at The Natural Epicurean. In the 10 years I taught there, I had dozens of amazing and talented culinary students intern with me. They assisted me in different aspects of my work, such as being a teaching assistant for my macrobiotic course or Ayurvedic cooking classes, assisting me with personal chef and catering work, testing recipes, or helping me create photos and videos for promotional materials. Naomi and I worked together for a few months this spring and came up with some beautiful materials for my web site and cooking class promotional materials. I am so grateful for her help, which came at a great time, when the cooking school had just closed and I was building my business and independent cooking classes. I miss working with Naomi now that her internship hours have ended, but hope we will get a chance to cook together again soon! Below is a video of us hard at work (and very well fed)!

Naomi has started her own personal chef business in Austin, Texas specializing in healthy, beautiful, plant-based (vegan) meals made with organic, locally grown produce. You can read all about her background, which includes an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree in Agriculture and Food Justice and a certificate in plant-based chef training from The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts. Let her know if you need her help with your next dinner party or weeknight meals!

photo of Chef Naomi SilvermanI’ll be teaching a class on Nourishing Buddha Bowls and Dressings on Jan 6th in Austin, TX. For class listings and to sign up for classes, please visit https://cookloveheal.com/book-a-class.

Macrobiotic Kinpira Root Vegetables

photo of kinpira root vegetable dish

With so much emphasis on knife skills lately, I’ve been thinking about sharing this recipe for Macrobiotic Kinpira Root Vegetables– one of my all-time favorite vegetable side dishes. It’s s a classic Japanese dish that I learned how to make years ago when studying macrobiotics in culinary school. Named for the legendary Japanese “superhero” Sakata Kinpira, kinpira root vegetables is high in minerals, supports internal alkalinity, and is strengthening to the body.

Why the emphasis on knife skills? Yesterday I taught a kids knife skills class with my friend Monica of Cook Like An Italian. We had 8 bright and enthusiastic children and 2 assistants (my daughter Isabel and my former student Maria), and the children learned about knife safety and how slice and dice a wide variety of vegetables that we used to make a delicious minestrone soup. We used some brand new 5-inch chef knives that seemed to be the perfect size for little hands. It was a great success! I could actually see a big improvement in the technique of each child from the start of class to the end of class. Everyone said they had fun, and seemed to LOVE the soup. And no one got hurt, which was my #1 goal!

Knife Skills Class Dream Team- Isabel, Rachel, Monica, and Maria

Now back to kinpira… the main idea is that you cut root vegetables into evenly sliced matchsticks, sauté in a heavy-bottomed skillet with a little oil and sea salt, then add a little water to steam, and cover to simmer until vegetables are al dente. The recipe is very versatile– any root vegetable can be used in various combinations, including parsnip, carrot, onion, rutabaga, turnip, burdock or salsify, lotus root, or sunchoke. Some classic combinations are: carrot, burdock, and lotus root; carrot and parsnip; carrot and rutabaga; carrot, turnip, and rutabaga; and carrot, parsnip, and sunchoke. You can even add some sea vegetable, like arame or hijiki, or little pieces of meat to make even heartier if you wish.

Macrobiotic Kinpira Root Vegetables
 
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Hearty root vegetables are sauteed and steamed to make a savory, satisfying side dish that is a perfect accompaniment for sushi or other Japanese dishes.
Author:
Recipe type: Vegetable Side Dish
Cuisine: Macrobiotic
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon untoasted sesame oil
  • 1 cup organic burdock or salsify, cut in matchsticks
  • unrefined sea salt
  • 1 cup organic carrots, cut in matchsticks
  • 1 teaspoon shoyu or tamari
  • 1 teaspoon mirin (optional)
  • 2 scallions, green parts, thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. Heat cast iron skillet over medium heat and add oil. When oil is shimmery, add burdock and a pinch of salt and sauté 5 minutes. Add another pinch of salt and sauté one minute more.
  2. Add carrots and another pinch of salt and sauté for 5 minutes.
  3. Add shoyu, mirin (if using), and ¼ to ½ cup water. Steam, covered, for an additional 3 minutes.
  4. Remove from skillet to prevent burning. Garnish with scallions and serve warm or at room temperature.
Variations
  1. Substitute other root vegetables for carrot and/or burdock such as turnip, rutabaga, lotus root, and/or parsnip. Carrot and parsnip, Carrot, rutabaga, and turnip, carrot, burdock, and lotus root, and carrot and turnip are good combinations. If not using burdock or lotus root, reduce cooking time so that vegetables do not get mushy.
  2. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds instead of scallions.

photo of burdock, carrot, and lotus root kinpira

Burdock, carrot, and lotus root kinpira with scallion garnish

photo of carrot and rutabaga kinpira vegetable dish

Carrot and rutabaga kinpira with black and white sesame seeds

 

Want to learn how to make delicious, healthy food while meeting new people? Come take a class with Chef Rachel or schedule a private lesson here. 

Homemade Black Beans

I love homemade beans! Making your own beans from scratch has so many advantages over the canned varieties– the taste is superior, the cost is lower, you avoid packaging waste, they are more digestible, and you can freeze leftovers to use for soups, tacos, chili, or your favorite bean recipe. You’ll have a tough time going back to the canned variety once you’ve made a batch of homemade black beans!

I recommend making one variety of beans per week. They take some time to soak and cook, so make sure to soak at least 2 cups of beans each time. You’ll be able to use beans cooked in a basic way in a variety of recipes throughout the week, and can freeze whatever you can’t use right away for future meals. We love to keep a variety of beans in the freezer (stored in quart sized freezer bags), such as black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, and white beans to use in making refried beans, bean soups, or hummus whenever we like. What a deal!

Make sure to sort your beans before cooking them. This ensures you will not get a stray stone in your soup! You could actually break a tooth or damage a filling by biting into a tiny little stone. I like to sort about 1/2 cup beans at time on a plate with a contrasting color so it is easy to pick out broken pieces, stones, or other debris.

image of dry black beans being sorted

Soaking beans and then draining them before cooking helps decrease phytic acid by 60% (phytic acid is an anti-nutrient that decreases absorption of minerals). Skimming the foam off of beans while cooking and adding kombu and/or epazote further enhances digestibility.

image of black beans being skimmed

You may use this recipe for any type of bean, but you may wish to leave out the garlic, cumin, or cilantro for some types of beans, or depending on what you are going to do with them. Enjoy your delicious homemade beans!

Homemade Black Beans
 
Author:
Recipe type: Beans
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 2 cups dried black beans
  • spring or filtered water
  • 1” piece of kombu
  • 1½ teaspoons unrefined sea salt
  • 1 white or yellow onion, small dice
  • 2 tablespoona olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons organic ground cumin
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped for garnish
Instructions
  1. Sort and wash the beans. Soak the beans in enough water to cover beans by 2-3 inches of water for 6 hours or overnight.
  2. Pour off soaking liquid. Place beans in heavy pot and add enough water to cover beans by 1-2 inches.
  3. Bring to a boil, uncovered, skimming off the foam as if forms for the first 10 minutes or so of cooking.
  4. Add kombu, and simmer for an hour (or more) or until beans are soft. You may also use a pressure cooker to save time and aid in digestibility. After skimming foam, add kombu, and place lid on pressure cooker. Bring up to pressure, then turn to low. Pressure cook for 10 minutes, then turn off heat and let come down from pressure naturally.
  5. Meanwhile, sauté the onions in separate pan with olive oil and a pinch of sea salt.
  6. Sauté until onions are soft and then add garlic cumin powder.
  7. When beans are soft, mix together the beans and sautéed onion mixture, and add sea salt. Simmer for another 15 minutes.
  8. Garnish with cilantro.
Variation
  1. Use 1 teaspoon dried epazote instead of or in addition to kombu to aid in digestibility.

 

 

Make Your Own Sushi Dinner Party!

One of my favorite meals to make with friends and family is make your own sushi. Everyone enjoys choosing their own fillings, being creative, and making their own custom rolls! Kids especially appreciate being able to build their own sushi roll because they know exactly what it is in it. So make your next gathering into a make your own sushi dinner party!

Step 1. Make your sushi rice.

I prefer white sushi rice, as it is lighter and goes with all fillings, although once in a while I make pressure-cooked brown rice for more hearty vegetarian rolls. Here is my fool-proof recipe for making sushi rice without sugar! Make sure the rice is not still hot when making a roll, so it doesn’t “melt” the nori sheet or making the fillings warm.

Step 2. Prepare your fillings.

I like to fold a nori sheet in half (with stripes going vertically) and cut filling ingredients to the length of the half sheet width. I usually slice ingredients fairly thinly so that I can put multiple fillings into each roll. Almost anything can go into a sushi roll, but you might try:

  • cucumber (deseeded)
  • spring mix (no need to slice)
  • carrots (raw, blanched, or sauteed)
  • sweet potato (sautéed)
  • avocado
  • edible flowers
  • red bell pepper (raw or roasted and peeled)
  • snap peas
  • fresh herbs- mint, cilantro, basil, shiso
  • mushrooms- shiitake, oyster, portobello (sautéed and seasoned)
  • tofu or tempeh (pan-fried and seasoned with shoyu or tamari)
  • pickles (red or green sauerkraut, red radish pickles, daikon pickles, etc.)
  • umeboshi paste
  • condiments- shiso powder, gomashio, ao nori flakes
  • toasted sesame seeds- tan and/or black
  • Dijon or whole grain mustard

Step 3. Prepare an awesome dipping sauce.

There are all kinds of sauces that go well with sushi, such as shoyu-ginger, wasabi mayo, and various spicy sauces. Try this simple and delicious recipe my husband created called insanely delicious miso dipping sauce or my sweet and savory almond butter dipping sauce.

Step 4. Make a 5-minute miso soup.

Use my basic vegetable miso soup recipe to make a delicious start to the meal. The soup can be warmed up at the last minute and garnished after serving in individual bowls.

Step 5. Prepare your sushi rolling station and roll your sushi!

If making hand rolls, you can all sit around a table and make one at a time from your seat. Watch my Facebook video for tips on making regular nori rolls and inside out rolls.

Each person will need:

  • A sushi mat and a little space to roll
  • A bowl of water to dip hands in and a hand towel
  • A plate to set their finished rolls

Have accessible for everyone to share:

  • A platter or two of fillings, pickles, condiments, and sauces
  • A stack of nori sheets (I usually use half sheets that I half myself) and/or soy wrappers
  • A cutting board and sharp knife for slicing sushi (link to Japanese veg knife)
  • Platters for displaying sliced sushi

For making a basic nori roll, lay the sheet of nori (i usually use a half sheet but you can also use a whole sheet) on a dry bamboo mat with lines on nori sheet going vertically. Wet hands in bowl of water and shake off excess. Take a handful of sushi rice (about 1/2-3/4 cup) and very gently spread out over the lower 2/3 of the nori sheet, all the way out to the edges. Do not put pressure on rice, as it can tear the nori sheet. The sushi rice will easily stick to the nori sheet without any pressing. Take several fillings and place horizontally over the rice on the lower 1/4 of the sheet (almost to the bottom). Start rolling the nori from the bottom, enclosing the fillings into the first turn. Keep rolling, using the bamboo mat for support, until you reach the part of the nori without rice. Dip your index finger into the water bowl and wet the edge of the nori to help seal the roll. Keep the roll intact until ready to serve. Slice just before serving.

Step 6. Set a beautiful table.

Place sushi platters on table and garnish with fresh herbs or edible flowers. Serve up miso soup into individual bowls and garnish with thinly sliced scallions or some fresh herbs. Have an assortment of drinks off to the side to sample such as green tea, iced green tea, warm or cold sake, or a crisp, dry white wine. Give everyone a plate, dipping sauce bowl, and chopsticks.

Enjoy your meal… Itadakimasu!  いただきます!