Dinner Parties: Make Them Fun For Everyone Image

Cooking for dinner parties should be fun. If the occasion is a holiday, a birthday or a personal landmark, celebrating at home with a meal cements relationships with friends and family. But when preparing the meal is too much work, the fun goes away.

With relative ease, chef Nicole Heaney shows how to create a flavorful dish featuring a filet of fish that is perfect for entertaining. The key for a dinner party, as she demonstrates, is a little planning.

In the kitchen at Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar in Monterey, California, chef de cuisine Heaney shows how to prepare sablefish with crispy skin in a brown butter sauce. Adding flavor, Heaney pairs the rich, fatty fish with al dente Brussels sprouts, creamy farro cooked risotto-style and savory apple puree to add acid and sweetness.

Key to making the festive plate is the combination of four elements, each of which takes very little effort to create. And of the four, three can be made ahead. The Brussels sprouts, farro and apple puree can be made hours ahead of the dinner or even the day before. Then, just before serving, reheat the three components and cook the sablefish as your guests are sitting down ready for a celebration.

For a delicious vegan and vegetarian meal, leave out the fish and serve the Brussels sprouts, farro and apple puree.

A kitchen with a view

Chef Nicole Heaney preparing sable fish with apple puree, Brussels sprouts & farro risotto. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Chef Nicole Heaney preparing sablefish with apple puree, Brussels sprouts and farro risotto. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Schooners Coastal Kitchen & Bar is the main restaurant at the Monterey Plaza Hotel on Cannery Row. Working with executive chef James Waller, Heaney cooks in a kitchen with a view of Monterey Bay. Growing up in Wyoming and working in Colorado and New Mexico, Heaney was an adult before she saw the Pacific Ocean.

She confesses that, even after a year at the restaurant, when baby humpback whales swim close to the restaurant, she joins the other kitchen staff members to rush outside for a closer look from the dining patio. There they watch as the whales breach for a long moment before disappearing in the cold blue water.

Her cooking is influenced by the time she spent in Sedona at Mii amo Café. Preparing meals for health-conscious guests of the resort and spa, Heaney learned the importance of clean, fresh flavors. Fats were kept to a minimum. The kitchen did not use butter or cream. Asian ingredients and techniques were frequently used.

The regime is not as strict at Schooners, but Heaney still creates dishes with distinctive flavors and innovative ingredients like the kelp noodles she uses to make her version of pad thai.

An avid reader of Harold McGee’s “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen,” she knows that the more you understand the chemistry of cooking, the better you can control the results. In her video demonstration, she points out the importance of using acid to round out flavors, as in the savory apple puree and farro risotto.

Apple Puree

Apples and onions poaching in apple juice and apple vinegar. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Apples and onions poaching in apple juice and apple vinegar. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

The apples Heaney uses are grown locally on the Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville, California. She recommends using Gala apples in the recipe. Heaney leaves on the peels to add flavor and color. Because the apples will be pureed, there is no need to cut them precisely.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Final assembly time: 5 minutes

Total time: 25 minutes

Yield: 3 cups sauce


4 large Gala apples, washed, pat dried, peels on

1 yellow onion, washed, peeled and trimmed, roughly chopped

2 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup bourbon (optional)

Unsweetened apple juice to cover

Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

Kosher salt to taste

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar


1. Heat a large saucepan on a medium flame.

2. Cut open the apples. Remove and discard the core and seeds. Do not peel the apples. Cut the apples into large pieces.

3. Drizzle olive oil into saucepan, add onion and apples and sauté together until translucent.

4. Add bourbon (optional). Cook off the alcohol, which may catch fire. Be careful not to singe your eyebrows as chef Heaney once did.

5. Cover with unsweetened apple juice. Simmer on medium heat until reduced by half and the apples soften and begin to break down.

6. Puree in a large blender. Start blending on a low speed and progress to a higher speed until the puree is smooth.

7. Taste and season with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and kosher salt.

8. If preparing ahead, store refrigerated in a sealed container.

9. Just before serving, reheat. Taste and adjust the seasoning and, if the puree is too thin, continue reducing on a medium flame to thicken.

Farro Risotto Fit for a Dinner Party

Farro risotto with mirepoix of minced carrots, onions and celery. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Farro risotto with mirepoix of minced carrots, onions and celery. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Cooking farro risotto-style means heating and hydrating the grain as if it were Arborio rice. Substituting farro for rice adds a nutty flavor. Heaney prefers her farro al dente but that choice is entirely personal. Many people prefer their risotto softer rather than al dente.

Better quality ingredients yield a better result. With risotto, that means using quality rice or, in this case, farro. The stock is as important. Canned stocks are available, but they are high in sodium content and can have an off-putting aroma. Homemade stocks are preferable. Any good quality stock can be used — beef, pork, chicken or seafood. For vegetarians and vegans, the farro can be prepared with vegetable broth and without the butter or Asiago cheese.

The cooking time may vary depending on the farro.

Like other whole spices, pepper has volatile oils. To preserve the freshness of its flavor, Heaney prefers to grind the peppercorns just before using.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 30 to 45 minutes

Final assembly time: 5 minutes

Total time: 40 to 55 minutes

Yield: serves 4


64 ounces hot stock, preferably homemade, can be vegetable, beef, pork, chicken or seafood

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, washed, peeled, trimmed, small dice

1 large carrot, washed, peeled, trimmed, small dice

2 large celery stalks, washed, peeled, trimmed, small dice

3 garlic cloves, washed, peeled, rimmed, minced (optional)

16 ounces farro

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon sweet butter (optional)

1 bunch Italian parsley, washed, pat dried, leaves chopped fine

1 tablespoon chives, washed, chopped fine

1 tablespoon fresh thyme, washed, chopped fine

1 cup shredded Asiago cheese (optional)

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Kosher salt to taste

Black peppercorns, freshly ground, to taste


1. In a saucepan, heat stock on a low flame.

2. Heat a separate medium saucepan over a medium flame. When hot, add olive oil and sauté onions, carrots and celery until the vegetables are translucent.

3. Add farro. Stir well and sauté until lightly toasted.

4. Add garlic (optional) and sauté until translucent but do not brown.

5. Deglaze the pan with white wine. Cook until alcohol is fully cooked out.

6. Add hot stock in 6- to 8-ounce portion. Stir well.

7. As stock is absorbed, add more stock and stir well. Do not scald the farro.

8. Each time the stock is absorbed, add more stock until the liquid becomes cloudy and the farro softens.

9. If the farro is being made ahead, when the farro is soft but not yet soft enough to eat, or 75 percent cooked, remove from the burner, allow to cool and refrigerate in a sealed container.

10. If continuing to cook or if reheating, taste and continue cooking the farro until it is al dente or to your liking. Set aside until the fish is cooked.

11. Just before serving, to finish, add sweet butter (optional) and stir into the heated farro until melted.

12. Add Asiago cheese (optional) and stir well to melt.

13. Taste and season with fresh lemon juice, salt and freshly ground black pepper.

14. Just before plating, sprinkle in chopped fine parsley, chives and thyme and stir well.

15. Serve hot and plate as described below.

Caramelized Brussels Sprouts

Caramelized halved Brussels sprouts. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Caramelized halved Brussels sprouts. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

Heaney prefers her Brussels sprouts al dente. Some people like them softer, in which case, after the Brussels sprouts are washed, trimmed and halved, blanch them in salted boiling water for two minutes, drain and then sauté as directed below.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Final assembly time: 5 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

Yield: serves 4


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 pound medium-sized Brussels sprouts, washed, discolored leaves removed, ends trimmed, halved

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black peppercorns to taste


1. Heat a large sauté pan.

2. Add extra virgin olive oil and halved Brussels sprouts.

3. Season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper.

4. Stir well to prevent burning. Sauté until Brussels sprouts are caramelized on both sides.

5. If the sprouts are to be served later or the next day, when they are cooked 75 percent, remove from the burner, allow to cool and refrigerate in an airtight container.

6. When the fish is cooking, heat the sauté pan with a small amount of olive oil. Add the cooked Brussels sprouts to reheat and plate with the fish, farro risotto and apple puree.

Crispy-Skin Sablefish in a Brown Butter Sauce

Also called black cod, sablefish is not actually cod. Heaney uses sablefish caught in nearby Morro Bay. She likes cooking the fish because it is almost “bulletproof.” The flesh is difficult to overcook and is almost always moist, flavorful and delicate.

In order to achieve a crispy skin, Heaney has developed a simple technique described in the directions. She recommends buying a wooden-handled fish spatula with a beveled edge, which helps remove the fish from the pan. The spatula is preferable to tongs, which tend to break apart the filets.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 5 to 10 minutes

Final assembly time: 5 minutes

Total time: 15-20 minutes

Yield: serves 4


4 6-ounce skin-on filets of sablefish or black cod, washed, pat dried

1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon sweet butter

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon Italian parsley, washed, pat dried, leaves only, finely chopped


1. Season each filet with kosher salt and black pepper on both sides.

2. Heat a large sauté pan on a medium-high flame. When the pan is hot, reduce the flame to medium-low.

3. Add the olive oil. Allow the oil to heat.

4. Place the filets into the pan, skin side down. Do not overcrowd the pan, allowing space between each filet. If the filets are crowded together, the skin will not crisp.

Sear but do not burn the skin.

Jiggle the pan. That will help prevent the filets from sticking to the pan. If they do stick, use the fish spatula to gently release them from the bottom of the pan.

5. Add sweet butter to the pan and swirl around the filets.

6. Let the filets cook without fussing too much. The fish is cooked when the flesh is opaque.

7. Using the fish spatula, gently flip each filet over. Swirl the filets into the melted butter, being careful to brown but not burn the butter.

After 30 seconds, use a spoon to baste the filets with the melted butter.

8. At this point, the fish is cooked. Add parsley for color and season with lemon juice.

Put the saucepan to the side.

Assembling the dish:

Plate the fish when everyone is seated at the table.

All of the elements — fish, apple puree, Brussels sprouts and farro risotto — should be hot and ready to serve.

Select a large plate. Using the back of a soup spoon, spread a tablespoon of the apple puree across the plate. Add a good portion of the farro risotto in the middle of the plate, then the caramelized Brussels sprouts.

Gently add the sablefish filet, crispy skin side up. Spoon a little bit of the brown butter on top of the filet, farro and Brussels sprouts. And as chef Heaney says, “That is it.”

Serve the dish hot with a crisp white wine and let the festivities begin.

Main photo: Chef Nicole Heaney shows her sablefish with apple puree, Brussels sprouts and farro risotto. Credit: Copyright 2015 David Latt

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Go Green With 3 Bright, Simple Thanksgiving Sides Image

Thanksgiving is surely a time for gastronomic excess, but at the same time, unless your children are adult cooks as mine are and the work is joyfully parceled out, the task of cooking Thanksgiving dinner can become burdensome and stressful. But dinner, especially the Thanksgiving sides, shouldn’t be stressful.

When I was a kid, I remember it was my aunt or my mom cooking and we kids played football in the cold late November air. Entering the house to the aroma of that roasting turkey is as indelible a memory as any.

Simple, satisfying green Thanksgiving sides

Boiling broccoli for broiled broccoli. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Boiling broccoli for broiled broccoli. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

These days we all cook, and there is much hilarity as we cook and eat all day. We gather about 11 a.m. and shoot for the turkey carving around 4:30 p.m.

I can’t say our food is simple — it’s mostly labor-intensive — but there are three wonderful Thanksgiving side dishes that can fit right into the program of a too-tired cook or a teeny kitchen. I call them the three B’s, three vegetable recipes that are perfect for Thanksgiving, easy to do, more-or-less traditional and all begin with the letter B: broccoli, beans and Brussels sprouts.

Broiled Broccoli

Broiled broccoli. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Broiled broccoli. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

I like to make this preparation when I’ve cooked something else in the oven that is either richer or more complex and has taken more of my time, such as a roast turkey. It seems almost no one has had broiled broccoli, so you’ll get positive comments. And it’s so simple it barely needs a recipe. The turkey is going to rest for 20 minutes, so that’s the perfect time to raise the oven to “broil” and cook this.

Prep time: 15 minutes to preheat broiler

Cook time: 10 to 15 minutes.

Yield: 6 servings


3 pounds broccoli

Extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Preheat the broiler.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil and plunge the broccoli in, stems first. Boil until the broccoli is still bright green and slightly tender when skewered into the stem portion, 6 minutes, but not more. Drain well.

3. Slice the stem at a sharp diagonal, then slice the florets in half. Toss the broccoli in a large bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Arrange the broccoli, cut side up, on a broiler tray. Broil until blackened on the edges, 5 to 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Green Beans with Pine Nuts

Green beans with pine nuts. Credit: Copyright 2015Clifford A. Wright

Green beans with pine nuts. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

This is about the easiest way to make green beans sparkle in taste and color. This preparation occasionally appears on our Thanksgiving table as it can be assigned to someone who feels they are not a good cook and they won’t mess it up. It makes a nice room-temperature antipasto the day after.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 12 minutes

Yield: 8 servings


2 pounds green beans, trimmed

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 to 6 tablespoons pine nuts


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the green beans until no longer crunchy, about 10 minutes. Drain the beans and cool quickly under cold running water so that they stop cooking, and then let drain further.

2. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, then cook the pine nuts until golden, about 1 minute. Add the green beans. When the pine nuts begin to brown, take the pan off the heat and serve.

Griddled Brussels Sprouts

Griddled Brussels sprouts. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

Griddled Brussels sprouts. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

This is as simple as it gets. Typically we serve this preparation as a kind of appetizer, as it’s easy to cook, easy to eat and tossed with salt — just perfect with a pre-turkey drink.

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 8 minutes

Yield: 4 to 6 servings


Extra virgin olive oil

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, cut in half lengthwise

Coarse sea salt


Preheat a cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat for 10 minutes. Pour oil into the skillet or griddle until slightly thicker than a film of oil. Place the Brussels sprouts in the skillet, cut side down. Cook until blackened golden brown, then turn with tongs and cook until the convex side is also browned, 5 to 8 minutes in all. Sprinkle with sea salt, drizzle with more olive oil, if desired, and serve hot.

Note: By the time you place the last cut Brussels sprout down, you will probably need to begin turning the first.

Main photo: Griddled Brussels sprouts. Credit: Copyright 2015 Clifford A. Wright

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Let’s Talk: Meals That Make Strong Connections. Image

When I first opened the doors to my restaurant Tanoreen 15 years ago, I had a clear intention: offer my diners a peek into the Middle Eastern cuisine I knew beyond falafel and hummus. I also wanted to share a rich, nuanced culinary world that — contrary to popular belief — was more slow food than fast food.

At that time, hummus was not served at cocktail parties with carrot sticks, people didn’t know what tahini was or how to use it. Freekah (smoked wheat) was not proclaimed a “super food” and za’atar and sumac were not the trendiest spices in the land. But to me, these foods were things we consumed and used daily. They were part of the tradition of food in the Middle East that was then unknown in America. I am quite pleased that the Mediterranean diet has become so popular. It’s healthy, fresh and in my opinion, delectable.

But let’s be honest. Most of the popular Middle Eastern dishes that have worked their way through the food chain were, until recently, “fast food” such as supermarket shish kabob carts and hummus party trays. Middle Eastern food is about much more than dips and sandwiches. The spice mixes and the use of fresh vegetables, lean meats, grains and olive oil are all cornerstones.

Our meals, when I was growing up and with my own children, were and remain an active meditation. It’s not “on the go” but rather celebrating slow-cooked food, togetherness, conversation and phones off!

Unlike baking, cooking is not formulaic, even though recipes can feel that way sometimes. I always say two people can make the same recipe, and it will taste completely different. There is a soulfulness in this kind of cooking.

It’s an inner, almost empathetic connection to the people you’re cooking for. The focus is on what really tastes good, and not just on your tongue. It’s also in the emotions and memories triggered as your guests eat the meal you’ve prepared.

Chef and author Rawia Bishara: A great meal is a conduit to togetherness. Credit: Peter Cassidy

Chef and author Rawia Bishara: A great meal is a conduit to togetherness. Credit: Peter Cassidy

Similarly my cookbook, “Olives, Lemons & Za’atar,” comes from that same premise. I want to celebrate the variety of recipes, which are not at all difficult, along with the traditions and memories that come with Middle Eastern food.

Memories of such meals stand like flag posts throughout my life: the first meal I cooked for my husband (stuffed artichoke hearts), our traditional Christmas dinner (roast leg of lamb), my daughter’s favorite breakfast food as a child (potatoes and eggs) and traditional wedding mezzes.

I learned all this from my mother, a schoolteacher and home cook. Technically speaking, she was a genius chef. But her real strength as a cook lay in her ability to make meals that were an extension of her love for her family and guests — of which there were many! Her meals created an environment of warmth, safety, comfort and a total blast for the senses. It was hypnotic, with all your synapses triggered simultaneously.

A snapshot of a favorite meal: a warm winter stew of slow-braised cauliflower and fragrant spiced lamb, served alongside warm rice pilaf and toasted vermicelli noodles, fresh tomato salad with shaved radish and herbs from her garden. There were heaping plates of olives, warm fresh Arabic bread, long thin hot peppers to crunch on. And small plates of hummus and labne, served before the meal but later banished to the outer corners of a table almost wiped clean. Two parents, five children and almost always a guest or two — because if you cook for seven, you are cooking for 10.

Ghada, as we called it, was a refuge. The biggest meal of the day, served in the late afternoon, with dinner usually later and much lighter.

In today’s world, we may seem more connected, but really we’re more disconnected than ever. People click away on their smartphones on the train, walking down the street, at the gym and, yes, at the dinner table.

As a chef, I try to create a cozy bubble-like environment in my restaurant, just as I did in my own home as a mother and wife. Middle Eastern food creates that mood, using dishes that invite connection. A great meal is a conduit to togetherness.

Brussels Sprouts With Panko

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


Corn oil for frying

4 pounds Brussels sprouts, outer leaves removed, cut in half

1 cup Thick Tahini Sauce (see recipe below)

1 cup lowfat plain yogurt

2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon finely chopped garlic

1 cup panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)

Pinch sea salt


1. Pour ¼ to ½ inch corn oil in a large skillet and place over a high heat until hot. To test the temperature, slip half a Brussels sprout into the pan; if it makes a popping sound, the oil is hot enough.

2. Working in batches, fry the Brussels sprouts, turning occasionally, until they are browned all over, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sprouts to a paper towel–lined plate to drain.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together the Thick Tahini Sauce, yogurt and pomegranate molasses in a medium bowl. Set aside.

4. In a small skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high until hot. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

5. Add the panko and stir constantly until the crumbs are golden brown, about 2 minutes.

6. Stir in the salt and remove the bread crumbs from the heat. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.

7. Place the Brussels sprouts in a serving dish, drizzle with the sauce and top with the panko crumbs. Serve immediately.


Brussels sprouts were not part of the Palestinian kitchen when I was growing up. I discovered them here in the States and very eagerly tried to push them on my children. To that end, I did what any good mother would do — I pumped up their flavor by adding a little tahini sauce and sweet pomegranate molasses. It worked!

In fact these Brussels sprouts were so delicious that they made it onto the original Tanoreen menu and I’ve never taken them off.

Thick Tahini Sauce

Prep time: 5 minutes

Yield: 2½ cups


1½ cups tahini (sesame paste)

3 to 4 cloves garlic, crushed

Juice of 5 lemons or to taste (about 1 cup)

1 teaspoon sea salt

Chopped parsley for garnish


1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini, garlic, lemon juice and salt and process on low speed for 2 minutes or until thoroughly incorporated.
2. Turn the speed to high and blend until the tahini mixture begins to whiten.
3. Gradually add up to ½ cup water until the mixture reaches the desired consistency.
4. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl and garnish with the parsley. Leftover tahini sauce can be stored, tightly covered in the refrigerator, for up to 2 weeks.


Tahini sauce is ubiquitous in Middle Eastern kitchens. It is the condiment. There is hardly a dish that isn’t enhanced by it. At Tanoreen, I mix it into salad dressings and drizzle it into cauliflower casseroles. My daughter? She dips French fries into it! Learn to make this and you will have a simple, delicious, versatile sauce to add to your repertoire.

Main photo: With a bit of tahini sauce and pomegranate molasses, even kids love the author’s Brussels Sprouts With Panko. Credit: Peter Cassidy

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The Perfect Cooking Style For Delectable Brassicas Image

Sun, Sea & Olives: If you’ve spent this apparently endless winter as I have, in the icy-cold, snow-raddled Northeastern U.S., you are by now, like me, longing for a bit of sunshine, a sprinkle of warm weather, a hint that spring is just around the next bend. But with yet another big snowstorm predicted to hit by midweek, I’m still counting on trustworthy brassicas to liven my table until the first asparagus starts to sprout.

AolivesAnd trustworthy those brassicas, aka cruciferous vegetables, are. (Why cruciferous? Before the flower opens, the four closed petals form a little cross atop the bud.) By any name, his big family covers an ample range of members, including, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, turnips, wasabi and even radishes. All, without exception, are huge nutritional powerhouses, sources of important phytochemicals (plant-based, naturally occurring chemicals), especially of various carotenoid and sulfur-containing compounds that may be important cancer fighters. This is nutrition-speak for saying, yes, they are very, very good for you! You can taste it in their characteristic spicy pungency.

They are also, when properly prepared, incredibly delicious — though you wouldn’t think so from generations of picky eaters, including at least one president of the United States, who have turned up their noses, and rightly so, at the sulfurous aromas of overcooked broccoli and cabbage, evocative of nothing so much as boardinghouse (or boarding school) kitchens.

Brassica vegetables perfectly suited to Mediterranean cooking

But believe me, it takes no great cooking skills to bring these vegetables to their full glory. In fact, several family members (like radishes) benefit from little or no cooking at all. And Brussels sprouts, shaved on the blade of a mandolin (or, to save your fingers, in a food processor), can be tossed with a very simple dressing made from olive oil, lemon juice, a bit of lemon zest, a little spoonful of mustard and a big spoonful of Greek yogurt all mixed together then poured over the sprouts. Leave them to tenderize in the dressing for half an hour before serving, and, if you want a more substantial salad, mix in a chopped hard-boiled egg or two.

Brussels sprouts aren’t actually well known in the Mediterranean, but they should be because they grow well in the cold but not bitter winters that characterize much of the region. Even if not particularly identified with the Mediterranean, they still benefit from a Med treatment in the kitchen: oven-roasting, for instance. Stir halved sprouts with a chopped clove of garlic, maybe a little chopped onion, some slivers of thick-sliced pancetta or country ham, a couple of glugs of olive oil, a sprinkle of salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper, then spread them in a baking dish and set them in a hot oven (400 F) for about 20 minutes, stirring them up a couple of times, until the sprouts are crisp and brown on top and tender but not falling apart.

My all-time favorite member of this vast family, however, is totally Mediterranean, so much so that it was unknown in the United States except to Italian-American gardeners until just a few decades ago. That’s the vegetable known here as broccoli rabe or broccoli raab or rapini — all names that betray its origin in Italian market gardens, where it has long been a winter staple And my favorite way of cooking this delight goes back a long time to when I lived in Rome in the late 1970s and a tiny restaurant in the tiny Piazza Montevecchio offered orecchiette alla barese. Orecchiette are a famous Pugliese pasta — shaped like little ears, which is what orecchiette means. In the town of Bari, Italy, it’s traditionally served with this stupendous steamed broccoli rabe, the whole thing dressed with a mini-sauce of garlic, anchovies and crushed dried chili peppers steeped in hot olive oil.


Picture 1 of 3

Broccoli rabe fresh at the market. Credit: Nancy Harmon Jenkins

I’ve made this dish for years — to me it’s the absolute quintessence of the Mediterranean eating, pasta, garlic and good oil with a terrific pungent green, totally vegetarian except for the anchovies (and if you leave them out, you’ll have to add more salt), totally healthful, quick and easy and loved by almost everyone who samples it.

When I made this for Sunday supper, I didn’t happen to have any orecchiette on hand, so I used the whole-wheat pennucce, which look like short, lightly ridged penne, from Benedetto Cavaglieri. That pasta-maker’s wares are available from Williams-Sonoma and a few other online providers. You could also use farfalle, conchiglie or fusilli.

Orecchiette alla Barese

Makes 4 servings


2 bunches broccoli rabe (aka rapini), weighing 1 pound each

Sea salt

2 garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

6 anchovy fillets, chopped, or cut to your size preference

1 small dried hot red chili, crumbled, or hot red pepper flakes to taste

1 pound orecchiette or similar pasta


1. Clean the broccoli rabe, discarding any wilted or yellowing leaves along with the tough part of the stems. Chop the broccoli rabe in pieces about 1 inch long. Rinse thoroughly and set aside.

2. In a large pasta kettle, bring about 4 cups of water to a rolling boil and add a generous spoonful of salt.

3. While the water is coming to a boil, start the garlic-anchovy sauce by adding the chopped garlic to the olive oil in a small saucepan. Cook over gentle heat just until the garlic bits are soft.

4. Stir in the anchovy pieces and use a fork to crush and mash them into the hot oil.

5. Add the chili pepper and stir. If the pasta is not yet ready, remove from the heat — but heat it again just to the sizzling point before pouring it over the pasta (see below).

6. Tip the pasta into the rapidly boiling water, stir with a long-handled spoon, and cover the pot. As soon as the water boils again, remove the lid and cook — orecchiette will take 12 to 15 minutes to become al dente.

7. Halfway through the cooking time, add the broccoli rabe to the pasta and stir to mix well. Continue cooking until the pasta is done — the broccoli rabe should cook just 5 to 6 minutes, so if you’re using something other than orecchiette, time it according to the package directions.

8. Have ready a warm serving bowl. Heat the olive oil sauce to sizzling if it has been removed from heat.

9. When the pasta is done, but still a bit al dente, drain the pasta and greens and turn them immediately into the warmed serving bowl. Stir to distribute the greens throughout the pasta, then dribble the hot garlic-anchovy-chili oil over the top. Toss again, adding a little more olive oil if you wish, then add a generous amount of ground pepper. Serve immediately.

(Note: Grated cheese is not appropriate with this pasta.)

Top photo: Pasta (pennucce) with broccoli rabe and garlic-anchovy-chili sauce. Credit: Nancy Harmon Jenkins

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Brussels Sprouts That Can Convert Even The Haters Image

Thanksgiving dinner in my family is not the time for experimentation. We have old favorites whose recipes we pull out because, after all, we make and eat this food only once a year. Turkey may be the star of the show, but side dishes, including Brussels sprouts, deserve some spotlight treatment too with preparations that go beyond everyday recipes.

Two of my children were born in Boston and grew up in Cambridge, Mass., where we lived for 15 years, so we still lean toward traditional New England Thanksgiving food even though we’ve all moved to Southern California. On Thanksgiving Day nary a jalapeño would appear on our table but rather maple syrup, cranberries and bread stuffing. We’re very “pilgrim” in our approach. Although Thanksgiving dinner is not codified, there is general agreement as to what will be on the table.

Many families make the turkey the centerpiece of the whole experience, and it should be. But this is no time to relegate the side dishes to the sideline. If you put as much care, consideration and love into those side dishes Thanksgiving dinner truly becomes memorable.

A real winner of a green vegetable dish is our hash of Brussels sprouts with maple-glazed bacon and hazelnuts.

Making new Brussels Sprouts fans

A New England Thanksgiving menu — the only truly proper one, I believe — has some prescribed dishes besides turkey, pumpkin and cranberry, and one of them is Brussels sprouts.

I like Brussels sprouts but many people don’t care for them. For people who don’t like them, this may be the ideal preparation because the final dish is hardly recognizable as Brussels sprouts. This is a terrific recipe and everyone at our Thanksgiving dinner always takes big servings.

This dish can be made Thanksgiving morning and left in the skillet to be reheated for 2 minutes on high when it is time to serve. Be careful not to overcook the Brussels sprouts.

Brussels Sprouts Hash With Bacon and Hazelnuts. Credit: Clifford A. Wright

Brussels Sprouts Hash With Bacon and Hazelnuts. Credit: Clifford A. Wright

Brussels Sprouts Hash With Bacon and Hazelnuts

Serves 8


Oil for sautéing

2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise

Coarse sea salt

8 thick-cut rashers maple-cured bacon

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup crushed or chopped blanched hazelnuts

Freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Preheat a cast iron skillet or griddle over medium heat for 10 minutes. Pour enough oil into the skillet or griddle to cover the cooking surface with slightly more than a film of oil.

2. Place the Brussels sprouts in the skillet, cut side down, and cook until blackened in spots and golden brown. Turn the vegetables with tongs and cook until the convex side is also browned, 5 to 8 minutes in all. Sprinkle with sea salt and set aside. By the time you place the last cut Brussels sprout down you will probably need to begin turning the first. Chop the cooked Brussels sprouts coarsely.

2. Lay the strips of bacon down in the skillet or griddle and cook until browned and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove the bacon and cool, then break it into ½-inch pieces.

3. In a large sauté pan or flameproof casserole, melt the butter over medium-high heat and cook the hazelnuts, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes.

4. Return the chopped Brussels sprouts, bacon and cooked hazelnuts to the pan and season with pepper and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.

5. Serve or reheat when Thanksgiving dinner is ready. (If reheating, do not cook for more than 2 minutes.)

Top photo: Brussels sprouts for hash. Credit: Clifford A. Wright

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Travel-Inspired Recipes Guide Chef Susan Feniger Image

Susan Feniger, one of Los Angeles’ best-known restaurateurs, is always planning her next food trip, as soon as she comes home. Feniger’s  restaurant Street, which opened in 2009, is inspired by the global street-food scene, but her explorations are as much about experiencing the lives people lead as they are about finding travel-inspired recipes.

Talking about a trip to the Turkish countryside, her eyes brightened as she described going with a friend to meet a farmer he knew. A walk into the fields up from the river led them to a house made of sticks with a cow in front. Inside, the kitchen had a fire pit in the middle of the room.

Sitting on the floor for their meal, Feniger watched with pleasure as the farmer’s wife first made tahini by grinding sesame seeds and then baked the tahini into the bread for their midday meal. The bread was delicious as was the experience.

In her kitchen at Street,  Feniger demonstrated one of the popular dishes on the menu, an easy-to-make dish with lots of flavor: Brussels sprouts flavored with goat cheese, apples and hazelnuts, topped with an Italian version of a picada without nuts.

When Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken, her longtime cookbook collaborator and fellow chef, were doing research for the dishes they would serve at their second restaurant, Border Grill, they traveled extensively in Mexico. She quickly discovered that the food she loved was the food cooked by street vendors and in people’s home.

As she explained, When you go into people’s homes “they’re so happy you’re there eating their food. People took us into their homes because they wanted us to taste their food. You didn’t get that if you go to restaurants. When you are on the street and you are in a culture that doesn’t usually see [outsiders], they really like that [you are willing to try their food].”

Travel-inspired recipes from around the world

To Feniger, eating the food prepared by people for their everyday lives is how you see the heart of a country. Over the years she has traveled around the world, pursuing her love of culture and eating.

“When I travel, if I don’t see a historical site, I’m OK. The much more rewarding experiences are the ones with people in their kitchens. My memories when I travel are ones with people, not with the monuments.”

On a 14-day trip, crisscrossing India from Delhi to Mumbai to Goa to Kerala (her favorite), Feniger ate on the street or in people’s homes every day. … When she was in Shanghai she was taken by a local on a food tour that began at 4 a.m. so she could watch a man make savory fresh soy milk sticky rice doughnuts cooked in a wok. By 8 a.m., he had finished his breakfast service so he cleaned up and left, allowing a shoe repairman to take over the stall.

Let the ingredients lead you

The menu at Street cherry-picks taste treats she ate during her travels over several decades.

A featured dish at Susan Feniger's Street restaurant: Brussels sprouts with goat cheese, apples and hazelnuts. Credit: David Latt

A featured dish at Susan Feniger’s Street: Brussels sprouts with goat cheese, apples and hazelnuts. Credit: David Latt

Recently, Feniger revamped the Street menu and gently moved in the direction of vegetarianism, not for policy reasons but because the street food she loves tends to feature produce over animal products.

Hence, the Brussels sprouts dish. Her picada is Italian and illustrates Feniger’s belief that keeping it simple is best. Take a run at flavor, she suggests, letting the ingredients lead you and everyone will be happy.

Brussels Sprouts with Goat Cheese, Apples and Hazelnuts

Cooked quickly, the Brussels sprouts should be crunchy so the dish tastes fresh and inviting. The contrast of savory Brussels sprouts, sweet apples and tart-creamy goat cheese, together with accents of the picada make the dish delicious on its own or as a side dish with a protein such as sautéed tofu, fried chicken, grilled steak or baked salmon.

Serves 4


For the sauté:

½ cup raw hazelnuts

1½ tablespoons olive oil

6 cups whole Brussels sprouts, shaved thinly on a mandolin or with a knife

2 medium sized Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into a small dice

Juice of 1 lemon

6 ounces soft goat cheese, broken into small pieces

1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the picada:

⅛ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons minced raw garlic

2 cups bread crumbs

Salt to taste

zest of 3 lemons

1 bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped


For the sauté:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Spread the hazelnuts out on a cookie sheet and toast them for 5 to 10 minutes until they are roasted and slightly browned.

3. Remove from heat and pour onto a clean dish towel.

4. Fold the dish towel over the toasted hazelnuts and roll lightly to remove the skins. Discard the skins.

5. Place the hazelnuts on a cutting board and chop into small pieces, or alternately pulse in a food processor for a brief period of time. Set aside.

6. In a large sauté pan, heat the oil on medium-high heat.

7. Add the Brussels sprouts, apples and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the Brussels sprouts are slightly browned on the edges.

8. Add the hazelnuts, lemon juice and goat cheese.

9. Toss together and turn off heat.

For the picada:

10. In a large sauté pan heat the oil, but do not let it smoke.

11. Add the garlic and stir quickly to release its flavors, but do not brown.

12. As the garlic starts to color, add the bread crumbs and salt to taste.

13. Stir well to combine and toast in the oil (about 5 minutes).

14. When the bread crumbs are browned, remove from heat and place in a mixing bowl.

15. Add the lemon zest and the parsley while the bread is still slightly warm.

16. Toss and then spread out on a cookie sheet to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container before using.

17. Sprinkle on top of the Brussels sprouts before serving.

Top photo: Susan Feniger in her kitchen at Street, demonstrating making Brussels sprouts with goat cheese, apples and hazelnuts. Credit: David Latt

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Red Cabbage and Kale Salad Just One Idea For Cabbage Image

The days of cabbage boiled to death and what I would call a dark, spicy and not very pleasant brown smell all over the house are over. For years, cabbage has been cooked in so many new ways, and it’s been served raw and been part of different food movements, such as the raw and vegan diets. But I sometimes wonder whether households in general have started using cabbage in their weekly repertoire of meals.

I still meet a lot of people who have never eaten raw kale or a quick sauté of Brussels sprouts with the sprouts still crunchy and having a green color. And I know of people who find it a challenge to buy a big head of red cabbage and carry it home to the kitchen counter, getting inspired to use it in four different meals in the upcoming week.

Cabbage should be an important part of everyday cooking for three obvious reasons: it’s tasty, it’s healthy and it’s cheap. That ticks all the boxes for your everyday meal. If you live in the Northern hemisphere, as I do most of the time, cabbage is a better choice than salad leaves in wintertime because salad leaves taste of nothing in the winter. When I was growing up, we did not get green salad in the winter until somebody presented iceberg, which became the thing of the 1980s. Instead, we had boiled cabbage in various ways, but luckily raw cabbage in salads started to enter cooking through the vegetarian hippie movement in the 1970s.

When I cook I appreciate all cabbage, but my favorite right now is curly kale, which seems to be an ingredient in most of the things I cook. For years, I think, only my grandmother’s generation ate kale — kale boiled to death and then added to a sweet, white, vinegary sauce that did not seem very appealing. It was a favorite winter meal in the country. I talked about kale for years with other chefs. Everybody said, “You can’t use it for anything really,” and for years I was thinking about ways to use kale before I started cooking with it and using it raw in various dishes.

Versatile cabbage can be used in many recipes

You can choose from several different kinds of cabbage. There’s Brussels sprouts, which — apart from pan-fried with spices — are great raw and chopped finely to be served in a salad with apples and walnuts; or cooked al dente with chili flakes and feta; or made into purée served with steamed white fish; or boiled light and added to a mash.

Another cheaper cabbage is white cabbage, used for the famous old-fashioned dish called Brown Cabbage, where you brown the white cabbage in sugar and cook it slowly with slices of pork belly together with a lot of spices for hours until it is brown and very soft. It is a dish cooked mostly in the country and by older generations, and it is still very popular in Germany. Cooking it once a year seems sufficient, if you ask me. Instead I prefer pan-fried big leafs of white cabbage in butter and sprinkled with a bit of nutmeg. That is a more modern way to eat cabbage.

But white cabbage is also great to use in salads, as a substitute for salad leaves. It can also be used in Asian-style cabbage dolmers: lots of shredded root vegetables with ginger, chili and chopped cashew nuts rolled in big, boiled white cabbage leaves and pan-fried in oil. In the summertime the pointed cabbage can be used the same way; it has a gentler and a bit nuttier flavor. In Denmark you can now get a red pointed cabbage, which you cut into long wedges and pan-fry in butter — it’s delicious.

Red cabbage is great boiled with sugar, vinegar and lots of spices, and it is a favorite for Christmas in Scandinavia. It can alternatively be sautéed with chili in a pan for 10 minutes and then drizzled with lime and sprinkled with chopped fresh coriander. The difference between the cabbage cooked for a long time and a quick stir-fry, apart from the texture, is the taste: The bitterness of red cabbage disappears when cooked for quite a while.

My last cabbage is savoy cabbage, which is used a lot in France. It works very well with Asian flavors. If eaten raw, it has to be really finely chopped and is great with grapes and a strong Dijon mustard dressing. In Scandinavia, the classic way is to eat it with fish.

Cooking with cabbage has endless possibilities and can become part of any world cuisine or mix of flavors. Just buy a big head of cabbage and cut it into pieces, What you don’t use you can save in the fridge and use day to day in your cooking.

This salad is great for lunch or with lamb, chicken or vegetarian pie.

Red Cabbage and Kale Salad With a Ginger Dressing


For the salad:

½ pound red cabbage

¼ pound curly kale

¼ cup cashew nuts

For the dressing:

2 to 3 tablespoons freshly grated ginger

1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or other oil with neutral taste

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Finely chop the red cabbage and kale and in a bowl.

2. Roast the cashew nuts on a dry frying pan until light brown, and let cool. After nuts cool, chop and add to the mixed cabbage.

3. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing. Just before serving, mix the dressing with the cabbage salad, season with salt and pepper and serve right away.

Top photo: Red cabbage and kale salad. Credit: Trine Hahnemann

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Kale, Broccoli, Cabbage Create Late-Season Garden Color Image

Recently, I was at Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa, getting some last images for my new book, “Vegetable Literacy.” Although the late summer days were hot, it was chilly at 6 in the morning. Dew wet our feet and hems while gloves and socks, unthinkable until that moment, were very much desired. But the display garden at dawn mitigated any discomfort, especially the beds of Brassica vegetables — kale, collards, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbages — which had the whole summer to grow and were now displaying their enormous leaves.

There’s always that moment when a garden starts to sigh and sink and say, in so many plant expressions, “Enough. We’re done.” It looks so exhausted that you can’t imagine there’s much left to harvest. Probably all our gardens are looking this way about now. Yet if you dig around you often discover there are still a few more tomatoes yet to ripen, the Jerusalem artichokes are coming on strong, and tiny cabbages are starting to emerge on the stems of the Brussels sprouts. The garden is far from finished, despite the strain it shows from a summer of growth, and what’s really looking big and strong, albeit somewhat tired, are cabbages and collards and those other big Brassicas.

A Savoy cabbage at Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa. Credit: Deborah Madison

A Savoy cabbage at Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa. Credit: Deborah Madison

The cabbages were especially impressive. They always are because they take up so much more room than their harvested heads would lead you to imagine. The enormous old grandmother-grandfather leaves that had been there since the start of the plants’ growth showed their scars. Though weathered, punctured by hail and nibbled upon by insects, they were still gathering sunlight and feeding the edible head. They’re hard-working plants. My respect for them, already considerable, grew even more.

The broccoli’s larger heads had long been picked, but smaller sprouts were ready for the taking — had this not been a demonstration garden, that is. The kales seemed energized by the cooler days and looked as if they were ready to sprint along for the next several months. Nothing looks as if it would be better for you to eat than kale — it is just so robust. If it were a person, I might add tightly wound.

Collards? Also huge. Brussels sprouts? What an architectural plant with the branches jutting out from the stalk leaving a window that you can peer in and see the sprouts starting to take shape.

Garden color arrives with vibrant hues of Brassica vegetables

But among all this vigor what really stood out was the extraordinary range of garden color these plants exhibited. We think of cabbages of red and green, but the leaves themselves are more of a dusky plum or a muted grayish blue-green. Pull away the leaf that just covers a head of red cabbage and beneath it is shiny purple, nothing like the smoky purple outer leaves. The broccoli and the Tuscan kale leaves are a surprising shade of blue-green-gray that escapes you until you see them en masse, not just in a bunch. The stems of the Brussels sprout leaves radiate a suggestion of violet, while the little sprouts are that calm slate green of the leaves. Taken together, the effect of all these shades and hues is breathtaking and utterly surprising. What we think of as green is actually a wide range of hues that embraces purple on the one side, green-blacks on the other, with shades of slate, blue-green, gray-green and every other shade in between. It’s another good reason for having a garden, or for visiting one like that at Heritage Farm. The goodness of plants is nothing if not layered — taste, nourishment and beauty all at once.

(Heritage Farm is the headquarters for the Seed Savers Exchange. Visiting hours and events are posted on its website at www.seedsavers.org.)

Top photo: A Mammoth Red Rock cabbage at Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa. Credit: Deborah Madison

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