Makes: About 2 dozen
Time: About 45 minutes, plus time to chill
1 cup sugar
3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with a rubber spatula or your hands.
2. Use a non-stick baking sheet, or line a baking sheet with parchment paper. To make the pyramids, wet your hands and scoop out a rounded tablespoon of the mixture into the palm of one hand. Using your other hand, press in gently on both sides of the mixture, bringing the macaroon to a point. Continue pressing with your thumb and forefinger on both sides until you have an even shape. For cubes, start as you would for the pyramids, then gently press equally on all sides, turning the macaroon to square off each side. You can use a butter knife to gently smooth the sides of the pyramids and cubes if you like. For balls, roll the mixture between your palms gently until round.
3. Place each macaroon about an inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake until light brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before eating. These keep well in a covered container for up to 3 days.
By Freya Bellin
You may be wondering why you’d need a recipe for something as simple as popcorn, but follow any of the variations below, and you’ll see that popcorn need not be simple—at least not in flavor. As with most pre-packaged foods, microwaveable popcorn doesn’t allow you much control over its seasoning. When you pop plain corn kernels, however, you have the freedom to add as much or as little salt, oil, or anything else, as you like. It tastes cleaner and fresher than anything you can get in a package.
It turns out that popcorn is the perfect “nosh” food for entertaining, especially when you can make it gourmet. I tried three variations: sautéed garlic, curry powder, and truffle salt. The truffle salt by far was the biggest hit. Note that seasonings like minced garlic won’t stick well to the popcorn unless they’re both hot. In general, though, as long as you’ve used enough oil (just enough to coat the bottom of your pan) the extra ingredients should stick fine. The popcorn tastes best hot, so only make as much as you’ll eat in a day. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes
Beets, like carrots, can be eaten raw. And they’re delicious that way, crunchy and sweet. So sweet, in fact, that they need a strongly acidic dressing like this one for balance. Recipe from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.
By Freya Bellin
I grew up thinking of parsnips as a soup vegetable. My mom always uses them when she makes chicken or vegetable stock, and she adds them to matzo ball soup. However, as my cooking horizons have expanded, I’ve begun to appreciate how versatile parsnips are. They have an earthy sweetness that works very well in broths, but also comes through when roasted or braised, as in this recipe.
You may consider trying this dish with a combination of root vegetables, as the all-parsnip dish was quite sweet. Potatoes, in particular, would be a nice complement to the parsnips and would also go well with the pumpkin seeds. This sauce is a really creative way of adding both flavor and texture to the dish. Grinding the seeds more makes them more of a thickening agent, and grinding less adds some crunch. The browned chicken is tasty and adds some protein to make this a heartier meal, but the vegetables really take center stage. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Makes: 2 main-course or 4 side-dish or appetizer servings
Time: 30 minutes
A crowd-pleaser and an easy starter or side—or a main course on a hot day. To make it more substantial, add 1/2 cup or so of small tofu cubes or cooked soybeans. Or top each serving with a few slices of grilled, roasted, or poached chicken. The cucumber adds nice crunch and freshness to what is otherwise a pretty dense dish. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.
By Freya Bellin
There’s a whole subset of foods that I would normally be hesitant to make at home because they sound too complicated or too messy. And until this past weekend, stuffed grape leaves would have fallen into this category. Yet, as it turns out, grape leaves—or chard leaves in this case—are pretty easy to make yourself.
I was totally impressed by the filling in this recipe. As I often find with the vegetable side dishes or fillings in this book, I couldn’t resist just eating it straight from the mixing bowl. The tabbouleh is herby and fresh, and I added raisins and walnuts for extra flavor and texture. I highly recommend that addition, especially if you’re accustomed to sweet dolmades. You could also substitute Quinoa Tabbouleh for the filling if you prefer quinoa to bulgur.
The next piece of this recipe is part arts and crafts project. The chard leaves become surprisingly pliable yet sturdy once shocked, and they’re pretty easy to work with. It took me a few tries to master the rolling, but once I got the hang of it they started to look quite professional. It’s tough to take a clean bite of the final product, but the leaves become softer and easier to bite into on day 2, probably due to the acidity of the lemon juice. You may experiment with coating the leaves with extra juice or olive oil to soften them. Needless to say, they take well to being made in advance, and you still end up with an impressive-looking, delicious new take on a classic. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 25 minutes
An unusual side dish that’s lovely with a nice piece of salmon or other full-flavored fatty fish. You can grill the bok choy instead of searing it if you like.
Other vegetables you can use: bok choy, Napa cabbage (cut lengthwise into long spears), endive (halved lengthwise), or radicchio (quartered).Recipe from How to Cook Everything.
By Freya Bellin
When a recipe transforms winter vegetables into something bright and summery, you know you’ve stumbled upon something special. That’s exactly how this dish is; it has a tropical element despite being composed almost entirely of root vegetables. The vegetable base for the fish is like a hash, especially if you use mostly potato. (I used a combination of sweet potato, carrot, parsnip, and turnip.) A food processor with a grating blade will be tremendously helpful, unless you have a particularly good hand grater (and a fearless disregard for your knuckles).
The seasoning for the dish is simple, which highlights the natural sweetness of the veggies. I used a mild curry powder, but a spicier one could work too. If you stay with the sweet and mild theme, I think there’s even room in this dish for some fruit, like raisins, apple, plantains, or mango. While the vegetable mixture makes a great side dish here, it could easily stand alone without the fish, garnished with red onion and parsley. It would also make a good potluck dish, as it isn’t temperature sensitive.
I chose striped bass for the fish, which held up really nicely to this method of cooking. You could also try halibut or mahi-mahi. If you don’t like the idea of breading or dredging fish, you’ll be happy to know that the fish ends up with just a light coating of the flour and cornmeal mixture. It makes a thin, perfectly crispy layer that is otherwise hard to get without frying in lots of oil. Texturally, the crispy fish makes a great contrast to the soft, grated vegetable hash. Sweet, crunchy, spicy, and quite light: an excellent combination. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.
Makes: 4 servings
Time: About 45 minutes
Lentils make soup making easy—they cook quickly and are incredibly tasty. And unlike many lentil soups, which are so thick they put people off completely, this one is nicely balanced with some simple vegetables. The lentils break down a bit during the cooking to give the soup a hearty consistency, but you can purée it if you prefer. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.
By Freya Bellin
Certain dishes intimidate me, and paella has always been one of them. It has a level of authenticity about it that makes it rather daunting to try to replicate. However, if you let go of the need to make it perfectly traditional, it turns out to be pretty easy to make delicious paella at home.
I was surprised to find that the recipe calls for neither pimentón nor saffron, both of which I associate with paella. I considered adding a dash of one or the other anyway, but the recipe is right; the dish definitely doesn’t need the extra flavor. The chorizo has a spicy smokiness that pervades the whole dish. Make sure you use the type of chorizo that comes wrapped like salami or a hot dog because you need to be able to dice it. The more sausage-like chorizo will crumble when you cut through the casing. Instead of fresh tomatoes, which are hard to find this time of year, I substituted 1 cup of canned diced tomatoes, and then used the juice from the canned tomatoes instead of 1 of the cups of water.
If you’d rather skip the seafood, this dish will still be great. Being a novice clam steamer, I overcooked mine so they didn’t add much to the paella, but it did highlight how great the rice is even without it. If you’re hungry and just want to dig in, you could skip the last step of toasting the rice, but if you can wait, your patience will be rewarded—the crust at the bottom of the pan is easily the best part of any paella. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.