Blackened Barramundi Fish Tacos with a Mango-Jalapeño Salsa and Pickled Red Cabbage (in Collaboration with Australis Barramundi)

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I love fish, all kinds of fish and whether it’s baked, seared, grilled or fried, I’ll happily eat it. When I try out a new restaurant, I usually start with the seafood section of the menu and work my way back to traditional fare. Jason, on the other hand, isn’t such a devoted seafood fan, and one dish, in particular, he has sworn against is fish tacos. Since we make tacos two or three nights a week, I am determined to convert him to a fish taco fan.

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Lighter and more delicate than salmon or tuna but richer in flavor and texture than cod and whitefish, Barramundi makes an excellent choice for casual weeknight meals or weekend entertaining. I knew the moment I tasted a steamed fillet that if charred it would make an excellent taco. My first impulse was to grill the Barramundi, but because of our stormy and raining weather lately, here in Chicago, I decided to give it a heavy pan-searing, and it turned out wonderfully. I garnished with pickled red cabbage a mango-jalapeño salsa; the results were outstanding.

 

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The plate of tacos in the refrigerator was too much for Jason to resist, and with a bit of hesitation, he grabbed one and took a bite. The surprised look on his face said it all, and he asked if we could have this again soon! So much lighter than beef, pork or even chicken, the barramundi tacos were deeply satisfying. Sustainable farming, along with the exquisite flavor and texture makes Australis Barramundi my go-to choice for summery seafood dishes.

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For The Tacos
4 Barramundi fillets
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, for searing Barramundi
Corn tortillas
Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
Thai chili sauce

Directions
Preheat skillet over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Combine paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl; pat dry the Barramundi and score with shallow cuts on both sides to allow the spice blend to penetrate the surface. Coat fillets liberally on both sides with seasoning blend and sear fillets skin side down in skillet for 4 minutes per side or until dark golden brown. Allow fillets to rest for 5 minutes then pull apart with forks. Load generously into warmed corn tortillas and top with pickled red cabbage, fresh salsa, cilantro and a drizzle of Thai chili sauce and enjoy!

Pickled Red Cabbage
3 cups shredded red cabbage
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together. Set aside.

Mango Jalapeño Salsa
2 ripe mangos, diced
1 jalapeño seeded and minced
1/2 small red onion, chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a serving bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes for best flavor.

Cilantro Lime Rice
1 cup basmati or long-grain white rice
2 cups water
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon salt

Rinse rice until water runs clear. Bring water, rice, olive oil, garlic, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Reduce to simmer for 15 minutes covered. Remove from heat, fluff rice with a fork then add lime juice and fresh cilantro. Serve warm.

Products Pictured
Australis Barramundi
Equinoxe Coupe Plate
Mise en Bouche Bowl 
Caractère Service Plate in Mint

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2018 Holiday Gift Guide

The holiday season is already well underway and if you’re anything like me then you’re still looking for gift ideas for the foodies in your life! To help out my readers I have compiled a list of the most dependable, beautiful, and high-quality products I use in my own kitchen, all of which I have thoroughly tested in the production of my site, and any of which I wholeheartedly recommend to my readers as excellent gifts. From kitchen essentials and barware to bakeware, dinnerware and small appliances, this is my list of the best products of 2018.

M.O.C. Woodworks
Magnetic Knife Holder

Retail Price:$55.00 +

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2018 Holiday Gift Guide1_acookscanvas-copyright2012-2018_111These beautiful knife holders are my go-to favorite! M.O.C Woodworks handcrafted magnetic knife holders are available in a variety of woods and can be custom engraved to make the perfect gift. Powerful hidden magnets hold even large kitchen knives securely while keeping them within easy reach. Available in a range of woods from common furniture grade species like cherry, maple, walnut, oak, and beech to more exotic hardwoods like wenge, bubinga and zebra wood. The dimensions can be customized to fit perfectly in your kitchen.

Growler Works 
uKeg Copper 64 Retail $169.00
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Looking for a perfect gift for your craft brew lover? Look no further! Growlerwork’s uKeg 64 is small enough to take along to outdoor get-togethers while the vacuum insulated construction and internal pressure regulator ensure your beverage stays ice cold and carbonated all day long.

The 64oz size pictured holds a half gallon of craft beer or home-brew and will keep it fresh for weeks. If beer isn’t your thing use it to carbonate and serve craft cocktails, sparkling wines or even kombucha! Dispense your drinks with style via the integrated tap and keep an eye on the pressure with the pressure gauge. Need more capacity? Growlerworks also makes a 128oz version; both sizes are available in brushed stainless steel or classic copper finish.

Revol

Set of Three French Classics Individual Baking Dishes 
Retail $149.99

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Three elegant rectangle bakers are perfect for baking side dishes, and casseroles as well as sweets and desserts. The sleek, handle-less design makes them also ideal for serving nuts, fruits, and cheeses. Available in three colors: all white, black clay with a matte black finish or black clay with a pepper grey matte finish. Oven, microwave, and dishwasher safe.

Crumbled Coffee Mugs 
Retail $13.59

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Truly a Revol design icon, these little beauties are available in a range of colors and capacities making them perfect for almost anything. From serving coffee, espresso, cappuccino or teas to baking individual desserts or as a pot for kitchen herbs to dress up a window sill, the durable porcelain construction makes them oven, microwave, and dishwasher safe. The large size makes a lovely utensil holder and doubles as a champagne bucket.

Solstice

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Bold contrasting tones and subtle metallic sheens transform your plating and create a striking tablescape. Reactive glazes create one-of-a-kind pieces with distinct zones for food presentation. Bowls feature a reflective interior for eye-catching presentations that beg to be photographed. Available in a range of color palettes, each celestially inspired and strikingly beautiful.

Peugeot
Whiskey Tasting Set

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Truly worthy of a connoisseur, Peugeot’s Impitoyable whisky glass features an elegant and modern glass form specially shaped to enhance aromas. The glass sits atop a polished cast metal base which chills spirits without diluting or changing the flavors the way ice cubes do. Pop it in the freezer a few hours before use, or I like to store the metal base in the freezer, so it’s always ready to go. Includes a stitched leather coaster to protect table surfaces and extend the effect of the chilling base. Makes an excellent gift for the whisky aficionado on your list.

Cuisinart
Chef’s Convection Toaster Oven

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This is an excellent gift for that foodie in your life. Lightning-fast preheating, ultra-precise temperature control and sized perfectly for everything from baking a 13” pizza, toasting sandwiches, baking bread and roasting a whole chicken to firing off individual desserts and pastry. With fifteen pre-programmed cooking cycles, powerful 1800 watt performance and a gleaming stainless exterior, this is the perfect countertop oven for serious cooks!

14 cup 2.0 Food Processor (Elite)

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The Truffleist

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I love black truffles; they are one of my favorite menu specialties when dining out. When it comes to cooking at home, I turn to The Truffleist for easy to use truffle-infused ingredients that make it a snap to incorporate the rich flavor of summer truffles into my cooking. Their black truffle butter is packed with 6% black truffles from northern Italy; this is perfect for finishing a steak. Truffle infused sea salt makes it easy to add truffle aroma and a salty crunch to any dish, and black truffle oil is perfect for adding truffle flavor to pasta and roasted vegetables. Truffle-infused fresh ground mustard is incredible on hot and cold sandwiches, then experience sweet truffle notes with black truffle honey.

Epicurean Butter

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Colorado-based Epicurean Butter offers a broad range of artisanal compound finishing butters. Both sweet and savory flavors add variety and flavor to your cooking with high-quality butter and chef-inspired formulas. Made with the freshest all-natural ingredients, each flavor is carefully balanced to lend an expert touch to your cooking. Convenient tubs keep your butters fresh and are easy to store. Portions are perfect for the home chef and store well until needed making it convenient to keep a range of flavors on hand.

Apologue Liquors

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I’ve been working on a seasonal cocktail with a tequila base featuring local Chicago-based spirits by Apologue. Their exquisite line of liqueurs are the result of some of Chicago’s best and brightest mixologists and spiritologists; Robby Haynes of Violet Hour, renown bar chief and beat virtuosos Ziyad Asrar, and local ingredient sourcing guru Jordan Tepper. This gifted trio has created three all-natural liqueurs: Aronia Berry, Persimmon Bittersweet, and Celery Root Herbal. Their liqueurs are presented in a 100% natural state, made with organic cane sugar, and all ingredients are sourced in the Midwest.

Apologue also fulfills an important role in the community by forming partnerships with nonprofit groups such as Growing Solutions Farm, which teaches agricultural skills to people with autism. The farm has dedicated some of its land to growing celery root for the exquisitely savory Celery Root herbal liqueur.

Jura Ena Micro 90 in Micro Silver

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The ultimate in push-button coffee convenience, this amazing machine prepares an array of coffee specialties including steamed and frothed milk drinks. Just fill the hopper with freshly roasted coffee beans, and you’re ready to go. A high-pressure pulsed extraction system is the first of its kind in a one-cup machine and delivers incredible aromas and a gorgeous crema. An easy-to-clean waste tray, internal water filter, and a self-cleaning cycle make it easy to own and maintain. Lightning fast heat up and fully-automated brewing at the touch of a button means that crucial first cup of the morning is only a few moments away. Each pre-programmed drink can be customized for strength and size to suit both your tastes and your mugs.

How To Assemble A Charcuterie Board (in collaboration with Formaggio Kitchen)

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Over the next several weeks many of us will be busy hosting holiday parties to entertain friends and family. While I’m working on main courses and desserts, my guests will be making merry; to keep them happily entertained and take the edge off their appetites I will lay an ample spread of cheeses, wines, and charcuterie. My suggestions for assembling a stellar charcuterie board are below.

If selecting and gathering the components sounds daunting, or if you find yourself pressed for time, I suggest you delegate the task to the delightfully friendly and knowledgeable folks at Formaggio Kitchen of Cambridge, Mass. In fact, this charcuterie spread was assembled by them, including suggested wine pairings, and resulted in a stellar feast for the senses.

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To provide a little something for every palate, you should offer a selection of crusty breads, cheeses ranging from mild to pungent, and charcuterie including mild and spicy salumi, aged Jamón and Prosciutto, and dried fruits, assorted olives, honey, mustards, and sweet and savory roast nuts. To make it easier, my suggestions are below.

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Beaufort Alpage – Gruyère has a flavor very close to our hearts; while living in southwestern Germany not far from the French and Swiss borders we came to love this style of cheese. Beaufort is a distinctive French member of the Gruyère family produced in the town of Savoie. This fine cheese is creamy and smooth with a gently assertive flavor and a pleasantly pungent character. Excellent with wild honey and dried figs, it is an easy point of entry into the world of funky cheeses for the slightly adventurous palate.

Valençay – A French goat’s milk cheese from the Loire valley. An intensely creamy cheese dusted with vegetable ash, it is delicately tangy and incredibly smooth in flavor with delightful hints of citrus on the finish. Exquisite with apricot jam and salumi, I really love this cheese.

Langres Boites – Hailing from the Champagne region of France, this cheese can be pungent at first but mellows after a day or two at room temperature in its wooden box, during which time the pungent aroma subsides and is gradually replaced with a rich creamy aroma and hints of wild mushrooms.

What many Americans would consider a ‘scary’ cheese, the compact and wrinkled exterior gives way to a creamy and tangy interior with nutty, caramelly flavors and deep, funky notes with a bright sunny tang on the finish that is deliciously difficult to describe.

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Westcombe Cheddar – This English cheddar has been hand-crafted for more than a century. Deeply savory with hints of hazelnuts and delicate caramel, subtly sweet grassy notes linger on the palate. An excellent cheddar which pairs well with dried fruits, Jamón, salumi, and olives.

Parmigiano Cravero Riserva – This beautiful cheese reminds me of my time in Italy. Emilia-Romagna is handmade by the Cravero family in the area of Bologna. Rich and nutty with a smooth salty bite and a pleasantly fruity finish. Sun-dried tomatoes and dry-aged olives are the perfect accompaniment to this Italian classic.

XO Aged Gouda – One of Jason’s favorite cheeses are aged goudas with crunchy calcium crystals that form during extended aging; very few deliver the sweet and savory punch of this XO aged gouda. Presenting an intensely salty start which gradually sweetens into a lingering caramel finish, this cheese is excellent on its own but also pairs perfectly with the juicy intensity of fresh pears and grapes or sliced baguette and fresh butter.

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Now let’s talk wines.

Any respectable charcuterie board is accompanied by a range of carefully selected wine pairings. Below are some suggested pairings for the cheeses listed above.

Valencay – 2017 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre, a Sauvignon Blanc from Loire, elegantly dry with a delightfully tart acidity that balances the smooth, rich flavors of this goat’s milk cheese.

Beaufort Alpage – 2014 Bouchard Père & Fils Grand Vin De Bourgogne Pouilly-Fuissé, with restrained buttery notes, this Chardonnay brings fresh pears and light florals to counter the deep, creamy richness of Gruyère.

I paired both Parmigiano Cravero and Langres Boites cheeses with an exquisite 2002 Piper-Heidsieck Millesime Rare. Honeyed fruits and freshness and acidity, ending with a crisp mineral snap that cuts through rich, dry cheeses to refresh the palate.

For the Westcombe Cheddar and XO Aged Gouda, I like a nice Grenache/Syrah blend, or a Spanish Rioja.

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Spiced Nuts
1 1/2 cups cashews
1 1/2 cups almonds
1 1/2 cups pecans
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
2 T. Honey
2 T. sunflower oil
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 325’F

Place the first 7 ingredients in a bowl and combine. Bake for 15-20 minutes on parchment paper, stirring occasionally until evenly golden. Add black pepper, sea salt, and cayenne to taste and toss. You can keep the nuts in an airtight container for two weeks.

Maple Cinnamon Spiced Nuts

1 1/2 cups pecans
1 1/2 cups almonds
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 T. maple syrup
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne

Preheat oven to 350’F

Place all ingredients in a bowl and combine. Bake for 20-30 minutes on parchment paper, stirring occasionally until evenly golden. You can keep the nuts in an airtight container for two weeks.

Mediterranean Feast (in collaboration with Imperfect Produce and Pereg)

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This has quickly become a favorite meal in our house. One question I’m always asked is “Do you eat everything you feature?” The answer, of course, that’s what we do, and because it is very difficult to cook and shoot just for two. We typically have leftovers and this Mediterranean meal is excellent even after a few days when all of the flavors have melded.

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The first time I tried Mediterranean cuisine was at small family-run restaurants in our little German hometown of Esslingen am Neckar. I can still remember tasting my first döner kebap; I had just arrived in Esslingen to visit Jason who was there for two months working on a project. Since it was my first time traveling internationally, I was incredibly jet-lagged, but he insisted we drop off my luggage at his tiny rented room and head back into town to get something to eat. He had been telling me about this wonderful spot called Konuk, a pretty famous little mom and pop Turkish restaurant that served a very authentic, hand-made version of the famous street food. I instantly fell in love with the combination of fresh crisp salads, creamy yogurt sauce, and savory marinated beef.

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Over the next few weeks, I must have eaten more than a dozen döners, and sometimes I would walk past early in the morning and see the chefs stacking the vertical spit with layer upon layer of marinated steak, spices, and then top it off with thinly sliced onions and a large tomato. As it would turn, large red-hot burners would roast the outer layer until it was crisp, then skillfully shaved off for customers and by the early evening the 100 or so pounds of fresh beef would dwindle down to a spindly, slowly roasting sliver, now meltingly tender, the aroma beckoning passers-by to stop in for a quick meal.

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Next, I discovered more delicious Mediterranean specialties at a little place called Metropol who offered the most delicious hand-made falafel and yufka. Over the time we lived there we would visit these and other places nearly every week, and although since moving back we haven’t found a place for Euro-style döner, we did find amazingly good Mediterranean food at a place called NafNaf. Since it’s a bit of a drive we have tried unsuccessfully to make our own hummus and falafel, but it never turned out right and certainly didn’t taste as good as the real thing. Lately, I have been reading a bit more about traditional recipes and methods and I think I have finally cracked the code. Now we can enjoy our very own Mediterranean feast right at home!

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We try to eat healthy without sacrificing flavor and have found chicken shawarma to be an excellent alternative to red meat. Along with shawarma, a simple Israeli salad of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, and fresh parsley add cool, crisp flavors while thinly slice onions dressed with bright, citrusy sumac and radicchio tossed with olive oil lend an awesome crunch an awesome crunch. A freshly whipped bowl of hummus seasoned with zahtar and steaming hot, crispy falafel serve as a starch making pita or yufka optional.

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While this meal has many components, the prep work and cold salads can be made a day ahead of time, along with soaking and pre-cooking the dry chickpeas. A little help from Pereg prepared spice blends makes it easy to nail the delicate spice profiles exactly, and the result is about as close in flavor to the real thing as you can get without a passport.

Falafel
Makes roughly 16 falafel

Ingredients
2 cups dry chickpeas
2 large onions, quartered
3 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 medium jalepeño, seeded and diced
2 T. Pereg falafel seasoning
1 C. Fresh flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2-3 cups vegetable oil of your choice for frying for frying, I like to use sunflower.

Sort through dry chickpeas, rinse well then soak overnight in plenty of cold water. Drain well, then combine chickpeas, onions, garlic, jalapeño, and parsley to the bowl of a large food processor. Blend the mixture for 30-40 seconds until coarse but starting to come together. Add the Pereg falafel seasoning, salt, pepper, baking powder, and baking soda. Pulse for another 10 seconds to bring together. Use a small ice cream scoop or a spoon to portion the dough into balls, all roughly the same size for even frying.   Preheat oil in a 3qt saucepan to 375’F. Once the oil is ready, cook falafel in small batches of three and cook until golden brown and crispy (roughly 4-6 min). Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Hummus with Zahtar
Ingredients
8 oz. dried chickpeas, soaked overnight then drained
6 C. water
1 C. chickpea liquid reserved
1/4 C. tahini
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. Pereg zahtar seasoning
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 T. olive oil

Cook chickpeas in a pressure for 1 hour at high pressure, or simmer on the stovetop for 2-1/2 hours or until tender. Drain the chickpeas reserving one cup cooking liquid. Chill the peas until cool then place in a food processor. Add tahini, garlic cloves, sea salt, olive oil, and zahtar and blend until well combined. Add reserved cooking liquid a little at a time while blending until smooth, approximately 3-4 minutes. Chill well and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of zahtar.

Chicken Shawarma
Ingredients
2 lbs boneless chicken thighs, cut in half
6 tsp Pereg Shawarma seasoning
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1 T. Aleppo pepper flakes (Amazon)
2 lg. white onions, quartered
2 T. fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 C. olive oil

Preheat the oven 425’F
Add the chicken and all ingredients to a freezer bag, making sure to thoroughly combine ingredients to evenly coat the chicken. Marinade for 4 hours and then roast in the oven for 30-40 mins or until they begin to brown slightly. Remove from oven and thinly slice chicken/onions, then return to oven to cook an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven, rest briefly then sprinkle with a handful of chopped parsley. Keep in a warm oven until ready to serve.

Israeli Salad
Ingredients
1/2 English cucumber, finely diced
1/2 lg. red onion, finely diced
4 small tomatoes, finely diced
1 handful of cilantro, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
2 T lemon juice
Salt to taste

Toss all ingredients together in a small bowl and chill before serving.

Radicchio Salad
Ingredients
1/2 small head of radicchio, thinly sliced
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp olive oil

Toss all ingredients together in a small bowl and chill before serving.

Sumac Onions
Ingredients
1 small yellow onion, sliced thin
2 tsp. Sumac

Toss onions and sumac together in a small container, shake to coat evenly then chill until ready to serve.

Products featured
Imperfect Produce
Cuisinart Elite Collection 2.0 14 Cup Food Processor 
REVOL Catalan Bowl in Cast Iron 
REVOL Catalan Bowl in Pepper
REVOL Equinoxe Coupe Plate in White Cumulus 
REVOL Equinoxe Individual Bowl Solid in White 
REVOL Rectangle Baking Dish

Charred Vegetable Soup (in collaboration with Imperfect Produce)

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One of my favorite soups growing up was my Grandma’s garden vegetable soup. She would make this soup throughout the year, and though the tomato base would remain the same, she would vary the rest of the recipe with whatever vegetables were in season.

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My version is updated by briefly broiling the vegetables to char them adding smoke and roasted flavors while retaining their crisp texture. Packed full of vegetables and flexible to make use of whatever produce is in season.

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This is a quick and easy recipe that can be whipped up on a weeknight or better yet make it ahead of time as the flavor improves over several days. I find this is a great way to use up any leftover vegetables when a new shipment of Imperfect Produce arrives on my doorstep!

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Charred Vegetable Soup

Ingredients
1 cup dry beans soaked and pre-cooked, I suggest Peruano or northern white beans; or substitute canned beans.
1 large Zucchini (or 2 small), 3/4” sliced
1 yellow squash, 3/4” sliced
2 small onions, quartered
2 handfuls string beans, ends trimmed
4 celery stalks, sliced into 1/2” pieces
6 red and/or yellow potatoes, diced
2 red, green, or yellow bell peppers, quartered
4 carrots, cut in thirds
1 large clove of garlic, minced
2 tsp Better Than Bouillon Vegetable Base (mix with 2 cups of boiling water)1 28oz. can whole tomatoes
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 T. butter
2 T. fresh parsley and extra to add on top
Olive oil to coat vegetables
salt and pepper

Pre-cook the beans
Rinse and soak the beans overnight. Rinse again and then cook in 4 cups of water until tender, about 2 hours. To save time, skip the soak and just rinse the beans well, and cook them in an electric pressure cooker for 40 minutes on high pressure.

Broiling the vegetables
Pre-heat broiler on high. Toss sliced zucchini, yellow squash, onions, peppers, and carrots with olive oil until evenly coated, then spread into a single layer on a sheet pan. Broil vegetables for 8-10 minutes or until charred, then flip and repeat, stirring until evenly roasted.

Making the soup
In the meantime, heat a large pot, add butter and the sliced celery, diced potatoes, and minced garlic to the pot and sauté for 10 mins over medium-high heat. Add the vegetable stock and canned whole tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil. I like to squeeze the tomato before placing them in the pot to allow them to break up prior to cooking. After the charred vegetables are done, I quarter the squash and zucchini and slice the carrots/peppers. Add all the charred vegetables and string green beans to the pot along with the garlic and onion powder. Simmer for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Add the fresh parsley and season with pepper. Serve with warm, crusty bread.

Products featured
Staub Cast Iron 3.75-qt Essential French Oven – White
Oneida Select 10 x 15″ Cookie Baking Sheet, Set of 2
Oneida FoodService Marble Plate Coupe Bowl 9”
Oneida FoodService Wyatt Oval Bowl Soup Spoon  7″

Salade Niçoise (in collaboration with Imperfect Produce)

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Although the warm sunny days of summer are behind us, delicious summery salads can continue late into the fall. Jam-packed with layered flavors and textures, my twist on the classic Salade niçoise trades cannellini beans for eggs and skips artichokes, anchovies and olives for a lighter texture, letting summery heirloom tomatoes, string beans, radicchio, lettuce, and red potatoes dressed in a light vinaigrette absolutely sing. A meaty combination of tuna and cannellini beans deliver a rich texture sure to satisfy your appetite. This salad can be enjoyed on its own or alongside dinner and is also perfect for entertaining guests. Bursting with color and freshness, it’s a sure crowd pleaser.

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What I enjoy most about making salads is getting creative. I have a bunch of perfectly fresh imperfect produce on hand and so this salad is one part inspiration and two parts imagination! I like to start with a proven formula, ala Salade niçoise, then add and remove elements until I’m are happy with the concept and get to work!

A side benefit of a subscription to Imperfect Produce is the constant supply of fresh produce just begging to be incorporated into weeknight meals, and in our experience has lead to a much higher proportion of fresh vegetables in our diet.

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I paired my salad with my new favorite sparkling wine called Mrs. by SYLTBAR; an all natural sparkling rośe made with 100% Merlot grapes, no added sugar or sulfates. It’s elegant, fresh and fruity with hints of pomegranate, citrus, and lychee. Light yet complex and only 63 calories per glass, Mrs. pairs perfectly with my end of summer salad.

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Salade Niçoise

Ingredients for Salade Niçoise
1 medium radicchio, cored and thinly sliced
2 handfuls fresh string beans, ends trimmed
1 head of green leafy lettuce, torn
2 medium heirloom tomatoes or a pint of cherry tomatoes
1 can oil-packed tuna, drained and separated into pieces
14.5 oz can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 red potatoes, sliced ¼” thick

Parsley Vinaigrette
1 T. capers
1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
3 T. lemon juice
2 t. white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a sauce pan of water to a boil, season with a pinch of salt and blanch the green beans for 3 minutes until bright green, transfer to ice water bath to stop cooking. Bring the water back to a boil and add the sliced potatoes to the sauce pan. Cook until fork tender then chill in ice bath. Drain the tuna and cannellini beans and set aside.

Arrange lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and radicchio on a platter. Separate the tuna into chunks and add to the platter along with the cannellini beans, string beans, and red potatoes.  In a small bowl combine olive oil, lemon juice, white wine vinegar, garlic, flat leaf parsley, and black pepper, mix the vinaigrette until well combined. Add capers and stir. Taste and add a pinch of salt if needed, although the capers will usually be salty enough. Drizzle the salad with the vinaigrette and capers.

Products featured

Imperfect Produce
REVOL Succession Bowl
REVOL Arborescence Coupe Plate 7″
REVOL Equinoxe Serving Platter in Cumulus
SYLTBAR Mrs. Sparkling Rośe

 

Braised Boneless Beef Short Ribs with Italian Caponata (in collaboration with Imperfect Produce)

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The first time we visited Rome, we rented an incredible 16th century apartment on Via del Govern Vecchio. The third-floor apartment was situated across the street from a monastic residence where priests and monks carried out their daily lives in full view like an ant farm in white starched collars. We could see their dining room from our living room window and felt just a tiny bit guilty as we watched them pass along large dishes of food and ceramic jugs of red wine.

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We had landed late in the afternoon and after getting settled in we intended to dine on bread, cheese, and prosciutto from a local market, but when night fell we couldn’t resist the warm glow of street-side dining. Dinner in Italy, for locals, normally begins about 8 or 9pm and can stretch late into the evening. In Rome, this means much of the tourists have already eaten and gone on to the wine bars and nightspots that dot the city.

The restaurants are filled with locals and cognoscenti who spend the evening savoring food, wine, and conversation. Time slows down as deep red wine flows and the stars come out. On a moonlit side street, two hungry visitors wander back and forth across the cobblestones unable to decide where to dine.

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We wandered along Via Sebastiano Grandis and ended up taking a table at Bottega Trattoria De Santis. It was here that we had our first taste of caponata. What I love about caponata is the layered flavors of ripe summer eggplant melding with onion, celery, briny olives and capers, and the rich flavor of sun-sweetened tomatoes. Often enjoyed on its own as antipasti, caponata really shines when served alongside braised or grilled beef. Many Italians make caponata in the fall and preserve it in jars to enjoy during the winter months with crisp crostini as a meal in itself or to accompany hearty winter dishes.

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When I opened this week’s shipment from Imperfect Produce and was presented with a vibrantly fresh eggplant, ripe red tomatoes, and celery I knew I had to make caponata. I chose boneless beef short ribs as accompaniment, which I cooked sous vide though oven roasting or slow braising would give similarly succulent results.

Braised Boneless Short Ribs with Caponata

Sous Vide Boneless Beef Short Ribs
4 servings

1 1/2 lbs boneless beef short ribs
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp. aleppo pepper flakes (or substitute with ancho chili pepper flakes and a dash of sea salt)
4-5 cherry tomatoes (if you are using sous vide; use 10 if you are braising in the oven or using a slow cooker)
6 sprigs of thyme, washed

Add short ribs to the vacuum bag and arrange remaining ingredients on top then evacuate and seal. Cook in a water bath at 165’F for 14 hours. At the end of cooking time, remove ribs to a shallow skillet and pour cooking liquid, tomatoes, and thyme to a small saucepan and reduce by 1/2. Sear ribs with a butane torch to caramelize, adding a bit of flavorful char. Plate on top of caponata and spoon generously with reduced sauce.

If using a slow cooker, an additional liquid will be necessary to prevent over-cooking. I like to add Cabernet Sauvignon and chicken broth to the ingredients and cook on low for ~9 hours before plating atop the finished caponata.

Caponata
1 large eggplant, 3/4” cubed
4 small stalks of celery, sliced
2 medium onions, diced
1 cup large green olives, pitted and sliced
2 T. capers
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
15 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
I small bunch fresh basil sliced thinly, chiffonade
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a 5-6qt ceramic or cast iron cocotte over medium heat. Divide cubed eggplant into batches and fry gently until golden brown. Add chopped onion, celery, and olives cooking until onions are translucent. Add capers, tomatoes, sugar and 1/2 of the red wine vinegar and cook for 10-12 minutes on medium-low heat. Rest for 20 minutes and taste to assess flavor. If you’d like it a bit sharper add more vinegar; a bit sweeter add a bit more sugar. Serve with short ribs.

Products featured 

Impefect Produce
Revolution 2 Round Ceramic Cookware – Pepper Red
Revol Round Eared Dish 7″- Pepper
Revol Round Eared Dish 6″- Black 
Arborescence Coupe Plate 9″ – White
Solid Mies en Bouche Bowl 3″ – White
Solid Catalan Bowl 4.75″ – Pepper

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