Category Archives: Whole Grain

My first attempt at pizza

I can’t believe it, but this pizza marked the very first time that I made pizza dough from scratch (I have used Trader Joe’s pizza dough in the past). In fact, I rarely make pizza, and that is largely because I live in New York City, where excellent pizza can be found on almost every block. Our favorite neighborhood pizza place is called Al Forno. It is a casual, laid-back family restaurant where the servers recognize us when we walk in, and where we know that we can count on a great arugula salad and a delicious thin-crust pizza made with fresh mozzarella cheese. It makes me hungry just thinking about it!

The recipe below came to fruition because I was inspired by a pizza that I had last year at the well-known vegetarian restaurant, Greens, in San Francisco. The pizza that I had at Greens was topped with a fresh cilantro pesto, heirloom beans, poblano peppers, and smoked cheddar. It was unique and incredibly tasty. Our pizza was supposed to be an easy weeknight dinner, so I didn’t bother roasting poblanos and instead mixed canned green chilis into pinto beans that I mashed and seasoned simply with salt and pepper. I did, however, make the cilantro pesto from scratch, combining fresh cilantro, garlic, walnuts, and a touch of parmesan cheese in the food processor.  We also didn’t have any smoked cheddar on hand (in fact, I’m not the biggest fan of smoked cheeses) so I used a combination of Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese.

When the pizza came out of my oven, I was relatively happy. It certainly didn’t look like an artisan pizza, but it tasted great despite the fact that I wasn’t thrilled with the recipe that I used to make the whole wheat pizza dough. I found a recipe for whole wheat pizza dough in Eating Well; the recipe called for part all-purpose flour and part whole wheat pastry flour. I immediately questioned the use of pastry flour, which in general is too low in protein to make good bread, but figured I would try it anyway. As I labored away in my small New York kitchen, kneading my dough for a good 20 minutes, I knew something was wrong. Despite my worst fears, the crust was certainly edible, it just didn’t have the soft, doughy spring of a good pizza dough. Next time, I’ll try a new recipe but the toppings on this pizza are certainly worth giving a try. Since I haven’t perfected the recipe, I won’t share it with you quite yet. To be continued…

Happy Cooking,


“Black beans and rice”

Apologies for the hiatus between posts! It’s been a busy few weeks, filled with weddings, visitors, and birthdays. The temperatures have become increasingly cooler in New York in the last few weeks, and I would venture to say that fall has arrived.

Every fall I find myself ready to cook heartier food like stews, roasts and pies. Recently, I made the first soup of the season and I am getting the urge to make either a pumpkin or apple bread. Plans to go apple-picking a few weeks ago were thwarted due to rainy weather, but my disappointment has at least been eased by the fact that I have been able to find some of my favorite apple varietals in the stores recently.

The following recipe is really a muddle of ingredients, but it is a perfect example of the type of food that I am craving right now. I call this recipe ‘Black Beans and Rice’ but it should really be categorized as a black bean chili. Strangely enough, I like to sprinkle grated Parmesan cheese on top, instead of a more suitable cheddar or cojita cheese. You could use something other than Parmesan, but I suggest that you take a leap of faith and try it, because it really does taste great. In fact, as I ate this the other night I realized that the leftover rice in my fridge would be perfect reheated and served with a simple combination of Parmesan cheese and peas. Italians would call this combination “Risi e Bisi”, which translated into English is “Rice and Peas”. Traditionally, Rise e Bisi is made with short-grain Arborio rice, but it is nearly as delicious made with long grain white or brown rice.  In fact, I think that I will go make it right now. In the meantime, enjoy the following recipe!

Happy Cooking,

“Black Beans and Rice”

Serves 4

For the Rice:

  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 3 cups of water
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

 For the Beans:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon mild chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 26-ounce box/can of chopped tomatoes (I like Pomî tomatoes)
  • 1 19-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup of fresh cilantro, cleaned and leaves picked (for garnish)
  • Freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (for garnish)

For the Rice:

1.     Place the rice, water, salt, and butter in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. As soon as the water begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook for 45 minutes over low heat.

For the Beans:

1.     Heat a sauté pan over medium-low heat and sweat the onion and garlic in olive oil until transluscent.

2.     Add the oregano, cumin, and chili powder and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes.

3.     Add the tomatoes and bay leaf and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until fully flavored.

4.     Add the black beans and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with the rice, fresh cilantro, and grated parmesan cheese.

An old favorite

This weekend Brian and I were in Pennsylvania for a friend’s wedding. After drinking our fair share of champagne and eating out for two days at various restaurants and hotels, we were more than ready for a home-cooked Sunday night meal. On the train, on our way back to New York, I asked Brian what he would like to have for dinner (in hopes that his current state of inactivity was the perfect moment to address the topic of food). He responded, “Why don’t we have your tomato pasta?”. An idea has never been so well received! Images of perfectly al dente pasta coated in a simple tomato sauce and liberally garnished with fresh Parmigiano cheese appeared to me, and further discussions of what to have for dinner seemed superfluous.

My mom’s tomato sauce recipe is both a personal favorite and a favorite of my two sisters and dad.  There is something about the combination of semolina pasta, tomato, garlic, and Parmigiano that is utterly satisfying (so much so that I can barely put my fork down, or restrain from going back for seconds). Despite my affection for Mario Batali’s ‘Beef Cheek Ravioli’ at Babbo, I often prefer more plebian pasta preparations. This tomato sauce does not take hours to cook, nor does it even require fresh tomatoes. It doesn’t even necessitate a trip to the grocery store, as it contains items that most people have in their pantry or in their refrigerator. And if you make too much, don’t worry—it keeps well in the freezer and can be used in various other recipes, including as a base for vegetable or lentil soups.

I could include the recipe here, but in this case I will direct you to my sister’s blog. She posted the recipe a few months ago and I only have a few notes to add. First off, use Pomì brand chopped tomatoes if you can get your hands on a box. Pomì’s tomatoes taste great and they don’t add citric acid. Secondly, always use fresh garlic if you have it and use good quality semolina or whole wheat pasta (I prefer DeCecco brand or Bionaturae (if I am making whole wheat)). Lastly, after cooking my pasta, I drain it in a colander and then return it to the pot in which I cooked the pasta (this ensure that my pasta stays hot). I like to coat the pasta in a touch of butter and some olive oil, and then either toss it with the sauce or let people add the sauce themselves.

Question of the day: What are your go-to pasta recipes?

Happy Cooking,

Stuffed Peppers with Identity Issues

After having meatballs for dinner last Sunday, I was interested in making a meal that featured vegetables this week. I ran through the usual spectrum of meals that I make when I want something vegetarian—frittatas, pasta, soup, stir fry.  None of them appealed to me—and then I thought of stuffed peppers. Believe it or not, my first time making stuffed peppers was only a few months ago in culinary school. We made stuffed peppers for family meal (the meal that is provided to the staff and students at school).  For family meal, I made peppers stuffed with quinoa, corn, and black beans. The following recipe is also vegetarian, but it features zucchini, pinto beans, tomatoes, and brown rice.

You might assume that these peppers are flavored with Southwestern spices.  But in fact, this recipe calls for thyme and parsley, two herbs that remind me of France, and in particular, Provence.  I also decided to top the peppers with mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese, so I guess that makes them part Italian as well.  I often associate certain dishes and ingredients with a particular country or region of the world. While this is helpful when I am trying to evoke the flavors of that country/region, it does, at times, hamper my creativity.  Is there a reason why pinto beans (which I commonly associate with Latin American cuisine) can’t be used in conjunction with traditional French ingredients, or why a taco can’t be filled with Korean braised pork, as some food trucks are doing right now?  Breaking the boundaries of traditional flavor profiles can allow us all to be more inventive in the kitchen. With that, I leave you with these peppers, which certainly have some identity issues, but which taste great nevertheless.

Happy Cooking,


Stuffed Peppers with Zucchini, Pinto Beans and Brown Rice
Serves 3


  • 3 large bell peppers (preferably yellow, red, or orange)
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1/2 lb. cremini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 28-oz can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 medium zucchini, diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 can pinto beans (drained and rinsed well under cold water)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/3 cup of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese packed in water, torn into small pieces
  • Grated Parmigiano cheese


    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
    2. Rinse your peppers and cut them in half lengthwise, removing the stem, the white pith, and all of the seeds.
    3. Brush a baking dish with olive oil and spread a half cup of the chopped tomatoes in the bottom of the dish.  Place the raw peppers hollow-side up in a baking dish.
    4. Heat a large sauté pan over low to medium heat and sweat the onion and garlic until translucent.
    5. Add the mushrooms, increase the heat to medium, and sauté the mushrooms until they have released their water and then reabsorbed it, approximately 5 minutes.
    6. Add the zucchini and sauté for an additional 3 minutes.
    7. Add the dried thyme, paprika, and the remaining chopped tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.
    8. Remove the pan from the heat and add the cooked rice, pinto beans, and fresh parsley and mix everything together with a spoon.
    9. Taste and season the mixture with additional salt and pepper if necessary (be aggressive about the seasoning or your peppers will be bland!)
    10. Fill each pepper with the bean and rice mixture. Cover the baking dish with foil and place the peppers in the oven for 30 minutes.
    11. After 30 minutes, remove the foil and sprinkle mozzarella and Parmigiano cheese on the peppers. Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes until the cheese is fully melted and a pairing knife comes out easily when inserted into the flesh of the peppers.

Lamb Meatballs with Heirloom Tomato Farro Salad

I have to start by pointing out that these are some of the best meatballs that I have ever tasted, let alone made from scratch.  It all started with some lamb that had been taunting me in my freezer every time that I went out to buy groceries.  I knew that I should use it, but I still wasn’t quite ready to eat lamb. You see, in April, while I was still in culinary school, there were two consecutive days where I single handedly broke down and trimmed approximately 50 pounds of fresh lamb.  In addition to butchering lamb, I had been eating lamb in every shape and form over the past few weeks—braised, grilled, sous vide, ground into sausages—the list goes on.  I was at my saturation point when we were asked by the chefs if we wanted to take some leftover meat home to cook.  I immediately balked at the thought.  However, after debating the merits of taking or leaving the lamb, I cautiously accepted a small piece of top round (which comes from the leg and is very tender), hoping that my hunger for lamb might come back in the future weeks or months.

It is now August and I finally pulled that forgotten piece of lamb out of my freezer this weekend.  After considering a number of different recipes, I settled upon making meatballs.  My first order of business was grating an onion.  I wanted the flavor of the onion, but I didn’t want to find any pesky, uncooked pieces of onion in my finished meatballs.  I conjured up some mint (leftover from this recipe), parsley, feta, and a number of dried spices and herbs.  I knew that I needed something to bind the mixture, so I looked up the meatball ratio that I had been given in school (1 pound of meat to 1 egg to a 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs).  After grinding my lamb in the food processor (which works very well, I recommend it), I put everything into a large bowl and dug in with my hands.

I very nearly skipped the next step in this recipe, the testing step.  I may love to spend hours in the kitchen, but I am also, regrettably, impatient.  There is no way to test meatballs for seasoning while the mixture is raw (well, there is a way but the health risks deter me from attempting it), so you must cook a small portion of the mixture before you form meatballs.  I could imagine the chefs at culinary school reprimanding me for not properly tasting my food, so I conceded, and cooked a small spoonful in a skillet.  It turned out that the mixture was perfectly seasoned. I also discovered that miniature meatballs make a perfect mid-recipe snack.

When it comes to cooking meatballs, you have a few options. You can pan fry them in oil in a saute pan, bake them with or without a sauce in the oven, or do a combination of both. I chose the latter.  I first browned the meatballs in a very small amount of oil to achieve caramelization and a boost of flavor, and then placed them in the oven to finish cooking.  The result?  A tender and incredibly satisfying meatball.  The sweet and savory flavor of the lamb hits you first, followed by the smokiness of the cumin and saltiness of the feta, and at the end, you detect the subtle flavors of the mint and parsley.  Paired with some yogurt sauce and the farro salad below, these meatballs are the perfect late summer meal.  And if you stop yourself from eating the whole batch in one sitting, you can make yourself a delicious pita sandwich for lunch later in the week.

Happy Cooking,


Lamb Meatballs with Warm Heirloom Tomato Farro Salad

(Serves 6)

Ingredients for the meatballs:

  • 2 lbs. ground lamb
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs (I used panko, but any type is fine)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 ounces crumbled feta
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion, grated on a cheese grater
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of kosher salt (if using table salt, reduce the amount to 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • A pinch of red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • Extra virgin olive oil (for searing the meatballs)

Instructions for the meatballs:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and using your hands mix everything together until all of the ingredients are evenly dispersed.
  2. Form a small meatball using 1 tablespoon of the mixture and cook the meatball in a small skillet over medium-high heat in olive oil until fully cooked. This step is important, as it allows you to test the meatball and adjust the seasoning as necessary.
  3. Shape the remaining meat mixture into 2-inch wide meatballs.  You should get about 25 meatballs total.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°F and brush or spray a baking sheet with olive oil.
  5. Heat a large sauté pan and over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add a tablespoon of olive oil and sear the meatballs on all sides, working in batches.
  6. Place the seared meatballs on the baking sheet and place them in the oven for 15 minutes, or until fully cooked.

Ingredients for the farro salad:

  • 1½ cups semi-pearled farro
  • ½ medium red onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes, chopped coarsely
  • ¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil to taste
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions for the farro salad:

  1. Cook farro according to the instructions on the package.
  2. While the farro is cooking, combine the tomato, parsley, red onion, olive oil, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper in a large bowl.
  3. When the farro is cooked, drain it and add it to the tomato mixture.
  4. Combine all of the ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Serve warm or cold.

Chicken Sausage and Escarole Pasta

I find myself craving pasta quite frequently.  On some days I have a yearning for my mom’s simple homemade tomato sauce (see recipe for it here), while other days I want something a bit heartier.  A few years ago I switched over to eating primarily whole wheat pasta.  It doesn’t taste like 100% durum semolina pasta, but I enjoy its nutty flavor and it fills me up so that I don’t overindulge.  I have found a few brands of whole wheat pasta that I like, including Bionaturae and Garofalo.

The other night I decided to make a favorite of mine, pasta with escarole and sausage.  I had a few chicken sausages in the freezer, so I pulled them out to defrost the night before. Luckily, I live only a block away from a great Italian grocery store and was able to find escarole (if you can’t find escarole at your local grocery store, try substituting spinach or kale).  With the addition of some sundried tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, chicken broth, and parmesan cheese I was ready to go.  The best thing about this recipe is that it takes no time at all. You can cook the sauce in the time that it takes to boil your pasta water.  It’s delicious, comforting, and dare I say healthy.

Happy Cooking,


Chicken Sausage and Escarole Pasta (serves 4-6 portions)


  • 1 lb. whole wheat pasta (I used a shape called casarecce, but penne would also work well)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 links of organic pre-cooked Italian chicken sausage, sliced into 1/2 cm thick coins
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 large head of escarole, cleaned and leaves sliced into 2-inch wide ribbons
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 3/4 cup sundried tomatoes (rehydrated in hot water, drained, and sliced thinly)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  •  salt and pepper to taste
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese (for garnish)

Instructions for cooking the pasta:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Once the water had boiled, liberally season the water with salt (the water should taste like ocean water).
  2. Add the pasta and cook according to the instructions on the package.
  3. Drain the pasta and pour it back into the empty pasta pot with a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil.

Instructions for making the sauce:

  1. While the water is coming to a boil, heat a large sauté pan over low heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add the garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.
  2. Add the red pepper flakes and sausage and continue to cook for an additional 3-5 minutes over medium hight heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add all of the escarole and the chicken broth. Cover the pan and cook over medium-high heat until the escarole is wilted, about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add the sundried tomatoes and cook uncovered for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. When the pasta has cooked, pour the sauce over the pasta and mix everything together gently with a wooden spoon.
  7. Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese.