Dill Pickle Roasted Chickpeas

>> Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dill Pickle Roasted Chickpeas

Everybody's all about roasted chickpeas lately, but my sister Beth, who is the Queen of Dill Pickles, had an idea for pickle-flavored roasted chickpeas. How could that be wrong?

Roasting chickpeas is a little more complicated than the recipes that say pop them in the oven for 45 minutes and they come out crunchy and yummy. The best method seems to be to roast them for half the time period, take them out and let them cool 10 minutes, then roast them the rest of the way. This allows the inside of those little beauties to reach maximum crispiness.

This recipe is great to make after you've just finished a jar of pickles. Don't throw away the brine - marinate the chickpeas, then roast them up.


1 28-oz can cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 1/4 cups pickle brine
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp dill
Pepper to taste


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with oil.

Place the chickpeas in a saucepan and add the brine, vinegar, and garlic. Bring to a boil, then turn off heat and let the garbanzos soak for at least 15 minutes. The longer you marinate them, the more flavorful they'll be after roasting. Alternatively, you can put the beans and dill pickle brine in a jar and soak them in the refrigerator, then drain them and roast.

Drain the beans thoroughly. Spread onto the cookie sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Stir and turn the sheet. Roast for 10 more minutes, then remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dill, and roast 15 more minutes, or until crunchy and slightly browned.

Allow to cool before sealing in an airtight bag or jar.

Makes about 3 cups.


Olive-Stuffed Italian Bread

>> Tuesday, April 14, 2015

My siblings share with me a special love for olives - something that has become a bit of a joke at holidays. We would not dream of a holiday celebration or family party that didn't include a big bowl of olives, and my older sister has a really cool olive-serving bowl shaped like a spiral.

Growing up, I only knew of pimiento-stuffed green olives and canned black olives. The first time I tasted a Kalamata olive was a whole new world of olive-y flavor. Now we have olive bars in a lot of our grocery stores, and some of my current favorites are green ones stuffed with almonds and a tri-color mix of olives marinated in herbs. That's where this fabulous bread comes in.

If you make extra chopped olives and don't stuff it in the bread, you can use it as a tapenade for our recipe Crispy Polenta Wedges with Olive Tapenade - or if you end up with extra tapenade after making that recipe, by all means stuff it in your next loaf of homemade Italian bread!


2 cups warm water (110-112 degrees)
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast or 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast from a jar
1 tsp sugar
5 cups white flour, plus 1/2 cup or more for kneading
2 tsp fresh chopped oregano, or 1 tsp dried
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups mixed olives, pitted and chopped (we used green ones with pimientos, Kalamata olives, and oil-cured Italian olives)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg white
1/4 cup sesame seeds


In a mixing bowl, stir together the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit for 20-30 minutes, until the mixture is bubbly (this is called "proofing the yeast"). Stir together the flour, oregano, and salt, then gradually stir into the yeast mixture.

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter or kneading board. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticky.

Grease a bowl that is at least twice as large as the volume of dough. Place the dough in the greased bowl, and then turn it over to coat the other side of the dough. Cover with a damp dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Stir together the chopped olives and parmesan cheese and set aside.

Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Sprinkle a flat surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out half of the dough into an 8x12 oval. Sprinkle half of the olive mixture evenly over the surface. Starting at one of the long ends, roll up the dough jelly-roll style, tucking in the sides occasionally, and pinching the end shut. Place it in a greased baking sheet. Repeat with the other loaf.

Cover the loaves with a damp dish towel and allow to rise until dough has doubled - about 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cut diagonal slashes in the top of each loaf, then brush with the egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until the crust is golden and the loaves sound hollow when rapped with a knuckle.

Turn out of the pans and cool on a baking rack. For best results, slice it at room temperature.

Makes 2 hearty loaves.


Bouillabaisse (French Fish Soup)

>> Friday, April 10, 2015

Bouillabaisse (French Fish Stew)
Bouillabaisse, we have conquered you.

Quite a few times we've said, "We should really try bouillabaisse;" then we open Julia Child's cookbook and shake our heads at the 3 pages of directions.

But my beloved F. Scott Fitzgerald mentioned bouillabaisse in his legendary novel about Americans living in the French Riveria: "The Divers went to Nice and dined on a bouillabaisse, which is a stew of rock fish and small lobsters, highly seasoned with saffron, and a bottle of cold Chablis....with the burn and chill of the spiced broth and the parching wine they talked."

 I'll never be young and rich in Nice as the Divers were in "Tender is the Night", but I can eat like them.

Basically, bouillabaisse is a quick soup of fresh leftovers from the fisherman's end of market day. They brought home what didn't sell and cut it up into the pot with some broth, tomatoes, and spices. Julia Child, and some other French cooks, make a bigger science out of it by suggesting you use 5 kinds of fish - some lean, some flaky, some firm-fleshed, and perhaps shellfish. We used fish that was on sale and that we knew we liked.

lobster and vegetable scraps for seafood broth
Lobster Boy wants to know what's for dinner.
Of course, Joe likes to take it up just a notch and make his own broth. This time he used vegetable scraps we'd been storing in the freezer, and the shell of a lobster we had when frozen lobster got down to $2.29 a pound last month (ridiculously cheap, right?).

By all means, make this as simple or elaborate as you want. If you're going for elaborate, do not miss the vegetable-herb sauce called rouille. It add a huge pop of flavor to a simple fish soup.


For the Bouillabaisse:

1 cup leeks, julienned
3 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup fennel, julienned
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
Salt and pepper
6 cups fish broth, OR 4 cups chicken broth and 1 12-oz bottle clam juice
2 lbs assorted fresh fish fillets
1 1/2 cups lobster meat (or any other shellfish)
1/2 pound mussels
Salt and pepper
1 tsp saffron
 12 slices of crusty French bread

For the Rouille:

2/3 cup roasted red peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
 1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil


Put the broth in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Add the saffron, leeks, tomatoes, orange juice, orange zest, fennel, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Add the fish and cook for 10 minutes. Add the shellfish and saffron, and cook for 5 minutes.

In a food processor or blender, combine all the rouille ingredients, except for the oil. Puree until smooth. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Strain the seafood from the soup and keep warm. Place a slice or two in each bowl, then cover with the fish broth. Arrange the fish in each soup bowl. Drizzle with the rouille before serving.

Serves 6-8.


Brazilian-Style Collard Greens

>> Monday, April 6, 2015

Brazilian-Style Collard Greens

I confess I don't know much at all about Southern Cooking - I'm about as Yankee as you can get. Like most Midwesterners about my age, we ate green leafy things in two ways - as boiled spinach in gloppy slimy wads, and as green salads, mostly full of iceberg lettuce or maybe a shredded cabbage coleslaw.

Collard greens definitely looked like the slimy blobs of spinach I never wanted to eat again, but hey, millions of southern Americans must be on to something, right?

A few weeks ago Joe and I were exploring the Chicago History Museum in Lincoln Park, and just a few blocks away was a soul food restaurant with a yummy emphasis on Creole/Cajun dishes. Oh heck yeah, we were there. 

Epiphany Restaurant is not a fancy place, and the service is notoriously slow. The best way to enjoy the place is to order a bottle of wine when you sit down, and go there on a night when you've been busy all week and have a lot of catching up to do with your partner or friends. You'll be enjoying things in long, slow Cajun courses.

We loved the etouffee, fried oysters, and dirty rice, but the Brazilian-style collard greens were much more than we expected. These weren't clots of gooey greens - these were bright green leaves full of saucy flavor and a zing of orange zest. Healthy, too!  We went home and got to work re-creating this dish.


3 slices bacon
2 pounds collard greens (2 to 3 large bunches)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely diced red pepper
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup strong chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Fry the bacon in a large, wide skillet until crisp. Let the bacon drain on paper towels, and then chop it well. Leave the bacon grease in the pan.

Rinse off the collard greens. Remove the largest stems, then gather bunches of the leaves together and roll them up into a bundle. Thinly slice the bundles crosswise, cutting the leaves into very thin strips.

Sliced collard greens

Heat up the bacon grease and add the garlic and red pepper. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are just golden and fragrant. Add the greens and toss for about 3 minutes, until they are bright green and softened. Stir in the chicken broth, then sprinkle on the salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Serve 4-6.


Pick-A-Filling Pierogi

>> Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Pick-A-Filling Pierogi
Pierogi, also called vareniki, perogi, perogy, piroghi, pirogi, piroshki, pirozhki, pyrohy, pielmieni, pierogies, pierogie, piroggen, and pelmeni. Whew!

Why would Joe and I try to cook pierogi when we can get them frozen in the store any day? Well, we had a couple reasons. First, we knew that  the Polish celebrate Christmas and Easter with special types of dumplings, and we wanted to get into the spirit of Easter by celebrating some other country's customs.

Second, Joe has been experimenting with different kinds of pasta dough, as you may have seen in our recipes like gnudi with wild mushrooms, gyoza dumplings, ricotta and chard gnocchi, and bacon-filled ravioli. Pierogi was a logical step.

Third, we all know that everything tastes better when you make it fresh, and when you customize it to your own tastes. That's why we've included some rather traditional pierogi recipes, along with our own variations. The wonderful thing about dumpling filling is you can throw in whatever you have or whatever you like - just make sure it's well chilled or stuffing will be difficult.

Our fillings for pierogies (below the photos):


Berries and Cottage Cheese

(Pittsburgh or Ruskie style)

Apricot Compote

Beef and Vegetable

Sweet Prune (Lekvar)

Mushroom-Sauerkraut (Uzska)

Peanut Butter and Banana
(not traditional!)

Bacon-Swiss-Caramelized Onion

Kielbasa and Cabbage (Haluski-style pierogi)

Traditionally, Polish Catholics forsake meat products on holy days, especially in the 40 days of Lent before Easter, so potato, cheese, mushroom, sauerkraut, and fruit are often the favorite stuffing.

vareniki, perogi, perogy, piroghi, pirogi, piroshki, pirozhki, pyrohy, pielmieni, pierogies, pierogie, piroggen, pelmeni

I also read that people (perhaps in smaller villages) would bring their foodstuffs to the church before Easter and have the priest bless them. Then they would share their dishes with each other. I love the idea of a community getting together to share their foods and celebrate together. It reminds me of the community breakfast my church serves on Easter Sunday.

Polish Priest blessing Easter food baskets (Swiecone)
Priest blessing food baskets (Swiecone) the day before Easter
(thanks to http://www.polamjournal.com for the beautiful photo!)

While Joe and I did quite a bit of experimenting while making these, we got some initial help from the time-tested pierogi recipes of Tasting Poland. The writer shares her family pierogi recipes, along with all sorts of tips and tricks.

Ingredients - Pierogi Dough

3 cups white flour
1 tsp.salt
1 cup warm water
1 egg
2 tbsp sour cream
1 tsp. vegetable oil

Instructions - Pierogi Dough

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Pour in the water while mixing vigorously.
Whisk together the egg, sour cream, and oil. Make a well in the middle of the flour, then pour in the egg mixture. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, blend the liquid into the flour mixture.

Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic - about 5 minutes. If the dough is too sticky, add a little flour; if it is too dry, sprinkle it with a bit of water.

Now sprinkle some more flour on your work surface and roll out the dough until it is about 1/8" thick. Try not to overwork the dough, or it will be tough after it's cooked. Cut out circles with a cookie cutter or cup.

Meat and potato-cheese pierogi ready for boiling.
Step 1: Roll out your dough and fill the dough circles. These are potato-cheese and meat-veggie pierogi.

Place a heaping tablespoon of filling onto one half of the circle, then wet the edge with a little water so the dough will stick together. Fold over the other half of the dough and pinch the edges shut.

Cooking Pierogi
Step 2: Boil the pierogi 5-8 minutes

Heat a large pot of boiling water, drop in 1/3 of the dumplings, and give them a gentle stir. Boil 5-8 minutes - the pierogi should pop up to the top about halfway through the cooking time. If you're watching the pot, you can time the second half of the cooking by the time they bob to the surface.

While they're cooking, if you'd like to toast them before eating, heat up a little oil in a pan on medium heat. Drop in the pierogi after you've strained them out of the water, and cook 2 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned.

Browned pierogi
Step 3: Brown the pierogi in some oil or butter. These are Haluski-style pierogi, with kielbasa and cabbage.

Whether you want to fry the pierogi after cooking or not, we really like serving these with a dollop of sour cream, regardless of the filling. Some people pour melted butter over them, and top with fried onions. Delicious.

 Makes about 30 stuffed pierogi.

Pierogi Filling Recipes

Potato and Mushroom

2 cups diced potatoes
1/2 cup milk
2 cups chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 tbsp butter or oil
1 tsp powdered garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil or steam the potatoes until tender, then mash with the milk until smooth. In a skillet, saute the vegetables until tender, then stir in the garlic, salt and pepper, and potatoes. Chill until cold, then stuff into pierogi.

Potato-Cheese-Onion (Pittsburgh or Ruskie pierogi)

2 cups diced potatoes
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 cups Cheddar cheese, cubed, or fresh Farmer's cheese (more traditional)
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 tbsp butter or oil
1 tsp powdered garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste

Boil or steam the potatoes until tender, then mash with the milk until smooth. Stir in the cheese cubes, cover with a lid, and let sit for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. In a skillet, saute the onion until tender, then stir in the garlic, salt and pepper, and potatoes. Chill until cold, then stuff into pierogi.

Mushroom and Sauerkraut

2 oz. dried mushrooms, rehydrated, or 2 cups chopped fresh mushrooms (porcini, morels, or chanterelles are very good here)
1 onion
1/2 tsp dill
2 cups sauerkraut, rinsed and well-drained
1 tbsp butter

Chop the onion and mushroom well, then saute in the butter until tender. Chop the sauerkraut and dill and stir into the mixture. Chill until cold, then stuff into pierogi.

Beef and Vegetable

1/2 lb ground beef
2 carrots
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1 leek
1 celery stalk
1 onion
butter or oil for frying
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup water or broth
Salt and Pepper to taste

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet. Set aside. Finely chop the vegetables, then saute in the oil until soft. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, then transfer to a blender or food processor. Process until the mixture has a uniform texture similar to large crumbs. Chill until cold, then stuff into pierogies and cook away!

Bacon-Swiss-Caramelized Onion

1/2 lb bacon
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup Swiss cheese
1/4 cup melted butter
1/3 cup bread crumbs
Salt and Pepper to taste

Fry the bacon until crisp, then drain on paper towels. Cook the onions in the bacon grease, then drain and place in a bowl. Chop up the bacon and add it to the onions. Shred the cheese, then add the cheese, butter, bread crumbs, salt and pepper to the mixture. Chill until very cold, then stuff the pierogi.

Kielbasa (Haluski-style Pierogi)

1/2 pound Polish Kielbasa sausage
1 tsp oil
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/3 cup chopped celery
2 cups shredded green cabbage

Dice the kielbasa. Heat the oil in a large skillet, then add the kielbasa and cook until warm and slightly browned. Remove to a mixing bowl, then melt the butter in the skillet. Add the rest of the ingredients, and cook over low heat until tender. Add to the kielbasa and stir well. Chill until cold, then stuff into pierogi.

Berries and Cottage Cheese

4 cups raspberries, blueberries, sliced strawberries, bilberries, or other fruit
1 cup small curd cottage cheese
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Put the cottage cheese in a colander and press out the liquid. Stir together all ingredients, then chill until very cold. Stuff into pierogi.

Apricot Compote

12 oz. dried apricots
1 cup water
1 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp melted butter

Place the apricots, water, and lemon zest in a small pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, then simmer until soft - about 20 minutes. Drain the water, then transfer to a blender or food processor. Add the rest of the ingredient, then process into a thick chunky jam. Chill well before stuffing into pierogi.

Sweet Prune (Lekvar)

2 cups dried, pitted prunes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Put the prunes in a pan and cover with hot water. Let them soak 1/2 hour, then drain them. Add the lemon juice and sugar and simmer, stirring occasionally,  until it forms a chunky paste. Chill until cold, then stuff the pierogi.

Peanut Butter and Banana

2 ripe bananas
1 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp cocoa powder (optional)

Slice the bananas into disks, then place one or two disks onto each dough round. Top with a few teaspoons of peanut butter. After boiling, fry these in butter and then sprinkle with the cocoa powder.

Make lots of pierogi - and then freeze them for later!

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